» Religion

PJM Lifestyle

Dennis Prager’s Inspiring 10 Commandments Project Sets a New Media Standard

Monday, April 20th, 2015 - by Dave Swindle

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 7.03.03 AM

Everyone make a point to take in Dennis Prager’s extraordinary 10 Commandments videos and essays, now available in print and in DVD.

Released last year from the non-profit Prager University, the 11 videos and the full text are available online, however the presentation that Regnery has put together in the small, comfortable book makes all the difference.

If you haven’t seen the series yet online then I suggest checking them all out here. Imagine the good they could do in some of your friend’s or family member’s life by just dropping an order in the mail…

 

 

These videos do such an extraordinary job of introducing complex concepts and clearing up common moral misinterpretations.

 

 

I hope that Prager and others take this approach — the substantive “list post” grown to a series of multiple videos and then in a long, published pamphlet, both a basic version and one aimed more at  youth — and continue to do more in this style.

Read bullet | Comments »

Has Pope Francis Opened a Door That He Might Not Be Able To Close?

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

In a first installment of the synod held last year, concerns were raised by many that some in the Catholic hierarchy, apparently supported by the Pope himself, were willing to consider changes in the Church’s teachings regarding such issues as communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitation, and homosexuality.

Those issues seemed to be questioned with the possibility of moving toward some kind of modus vivendi after notes from the meeting were released prematurely and triggered a feeding frenzy in the media. The feeler, if such it was, was met immediately with pushback by the forces of traditionalism, including lay groups and many high ranking bishops.

In the end, the notes were dismissed as simply that and a formal summary report of the Synod’s position on the issues released that upheld the status quo.

 

That said, despite recent comments to the contrary, the Pope’s apparent support for continued exploration of how the subjects might be addressed within the framework of the Church’s Majesterium has kept the matter alive and has even discouraged some in the hierarchy from dropping the issue completely.

Enter Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, who has hinted that decisions on what to do with or how to treat homosexuals, divorced and remarried persons, and those in social circumstances outside the mainstream of traditional Christian practice be handled on the national level rather than on a Churchwide basis.

Such a path, if chosen, would Balkanize the universal Church into a patchwork of different teachings some that would undoubtedly condemn certain practices, others that would take a more forgiving approach, while still others could fall anywhere in between.

The practice of what are now sometimes referred to as “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what Church teachings they will accept while rationalizing the others away, will in effect become institutionalized, permanently condemning the wider Church to confusion and uncertainty.

Eerily echoing a position often taken by President Barack Obama, Cardinal Marx has said in a recent interview that the German Church “cannot wait” for the formal processes of the Vatican to work their way through the issues; instead, local episcopal conferences should be able to state their own position on the issues and proceed accordingly, albeit without violating Church doctrine.

“We are not just a subsidiary of Rome,” said Marx in an article for Die Tagespost. “Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.”

 

Already, some German bishops have expressed support for finding ways to draw in divorced and remarried couples by describing a period of penance before ultimately allowing them to receive communion. Meanwhile, homosexual couples would be welcomed to serve in various Church run institutions.

Marx’s position is one of inclusion and to find ways to get people and the Eucharist together.

On the other hand, there are those who warn that such practices could seal off pastoralism from the teachings of the Majesterium, in effect, making the Majesterium toothless.

Which could end up putting the Church itself into a worse position than simply being the target of the angry left, it would become irrelevant.

Marx, however, doesn’t represent the entire German Church and has been refuted by fellow Cardinals Paul Josef Cordes and Gerhard Müller.

As reported in the National Catholic Register online, Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that doctrinal, or even disciplinary, decisions regarding marriage and family are not up for determination by national bishops’ conferences.

It is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” said Müller.

Part of the driving force behind Marx’s move to be more conciliatory toward the Eucharistically disenfranchised is likely the rapidly declining numbers not only of German Catholics but of Christians there in general.

According to the German newspaper Die Welt, only 12.3 percent of Catholics in the country attend church regularly.

But with a population half of which does not even believe in God, would compromising on the Church’s teachings be worth it just to bring in a few more congregants, a trickle that in all likelihood, would peter out within a few years anyway?

Cordes doesn’t think so, even going so far as to reprimand Marx for taking such a bold stance in light of German Church’s poor record in evangelizing his fellow countrymen.

In an article published by the Catholic News Agency, Cordes characterized Marx’s glowing description of the Church in Germany as “wishful thinking.”

“The existing German ecclesial apparatus is completely unfit to work against growing secularism,” declared Cordes, noting that Church leaders there were asked by Benedict XVI in 2011 to tone down their worldly attitudes.

 

But beyond the immediate question of the state of the Church in Germany, is Marx’s position indicative of something more? Does it, for instance, suggest that the Church may be entering a period of internal dissent? Not among lapsed or cafeteria Catholics this time, but among the hierarchy itself? Not since the liberation theology movement of the 1970s or the later leftist infiltration of the religious formation process of the 80s and 90s has the Church faced such a threat.

The looming situation appears to leave the Church with just two choices: It can agree with these new calls for compromise (as a result of which, it will likely go the way of mainline Protestantism, ie shrinking congregations, drift from the traditional teachings of the Church, and irrelevancy) or it can stick to its principles, preserve its teachings, and become a beacon of reliability in a world that is rapidly losing direction.

Look for this fall’s Synod on the Family to yield first signs of which it will be.

shutterstock_63582394

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | Comments »

Christian Persecution Is a Resurrected Form of Antisemitism

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Paula,

I found your piece to be very timely based on the thoughts coming from my Christian friends regarding the growing persecution of the Christian church abroad and at home. One comment I received regarding a recent Tatler post acknowledges what many of my friends have already expressed:

Ms. Goldberg,
I have heard the expression “Sunday comes after Saturday,” which as I understand is the answer in the Muslim Middle East to why they persecute Jews so much and persecute Christians less. This is confirmed by your article. Once all the Jews have left, they will come after the Christians.
–Andrew W.

When we Jews hear your shock we respond with all-too familiar nods, as you are beginning to understand what we have experienced for thousands of years. I would like to reach out to you to highlight an essential concept you and my Christian friends have missed in the important discussion of how to fight back against persecution, so that you may be better equipped to handle what is already coming your way.

You cite Peter (Hebrew name Kefa) who was a Jew who wrote to a primarily Jewish audience (1:1 “exiles of the Dispersion” – i.e. the Diaspora of 70 A.D. that followed the destruction of the second Temple, or even the descendants of the first diaspora — Jews lived everywhere in that area in ancient times) who, joined with gentile counterparts, believed in a Jewish Messiah. These were outcasts because they were adherents to Jewish culture in a Roman (pagan) world. From that perspective I’d encourage all Christians to think along the lines of understanding the Biblical persecution which they reference as a contemporary form of antisemitism.

Read bullet | 28 Comments »

The Best New York Cinema is Indie Cinema

Friday, April 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

In terms of New York while Mr. Wargas named many good box office hits, he left out the entire genre of independent, low-budget cinema that screams New York in ways big directors and big dollars cannot. Case in point: Crossing Delancey, my soul’s addiction that requires yearly viewing.

The almost Yiddishkeit story of a Jewish girl who shook off her Lower East Side roots for the promises of the elite literati, only to find herself falling in love with a Pickle Man from the old side of the tracks, Crossing Delancey is like the city itself. It is spiritually rooted in the past, firmly grounded in the present, ever-questioning the future. It is both literal and visceral, practical and mystical. It is the pursuit of love in person, place, and idea altogether inseparable.

Joan Micklin Silver directed the film produced by its star, Amy Irving. The shout-out to the Guerilla Girls was a snide flip of the finger at the grotesque bias against women in the film industry. Jennifer Westfeldt owes her career in part to these trailblazers of Working Girl-era film feminism.

Infused with the neshama, the spiritual nature inherent to the female sex, Crossing Delancey asks of its protagonist and its audience, “Who are you?” That is the question every immigrant, visitor and newborn has and will hear when arriving on her stinking golden shores. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” It is brutal, incisive and promises the gift of Divine truth if answered honestly. Crossing Delancey captures the idea of New York, the gateway to the goldena medina, the promised land where anyone, immigrant and indie filmmaker alike, can make their dreams come true.

Read bullet | Comments »

Should Christians & Jews Fear a Muslim Majority?

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Should this projected demographic shift worry non-Muslims?

Some controversial research suggests that an increase in the percentage of the Muslim population in a country correlates to increasingly aggressive rights-violating behavior from that population. Taken at face value, the numbers present a concern.

However, for Christians and Jews in particular, it would help to remember that minority status does not necessarily translate to domination. The early church was a minority from its conception and remained so for centuries.

Plus, when Christians look at their shared heritage with the Jews, scripture demonstrates that God reveals his sovereignty most dramatically when His people appear to be on the ropes. If a time of persecution approaches, we would do well to retain our faith – not in birthrates and conversions – but in God alone.

Read bullet | 42 Comments »

When Salon Went Hunting for Christian Terrorists…

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

shutterstock_147717923

Ever heard of the Army of God? Or Concerned Christians? As far as Salon and other leftist media outlets are concerned, they’re just as lethal as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda – and the only reason why you haven’t heard of them but have heard of the Islamic terror groups is because of the mainstream media’s deeply ingrained “Islamophobia.”

If this sounds absurd, it’s only because it is. The mainstream media, especially organs like Salon that are even more leftist than the others, are always avid to exonerate Islam and establish the claim that Christianity is just as likely to incite its adherents to violence as Islam is. To try to do this, they have to resort to increasingly desperate stratagems, in an effort to convince you that these nefarious Christian terrorists are all over the place, and you would know that, except for the evil right-wing media’s constant Islamophobic ranting. So it is with Alex Henderson’s “6 modern-day Christian terrorist groups our media conveniently ignores,” which Salon reprinted from Alertnet on last Tuesday.

It’s all about the vile Right, you see: “In the minds of far-right Republicans,” Henderson writes,

Obama committed the ultimate sin by daring to mention that Christianity has a dark side and citing the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition as two examples from the distant past. Obama wasn’t attacking Christianity on the whole but rather, was making the point that just as not all Christians can be held responsible for the horrors of the Inquisition, not all Muslims can be blamed for the violent extremism of ISIS (the Islamic State, Iraq and Syria), the Taliban, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram. But Obama certainly didn’t need to look 800 or 900 years in the past to find examples of extreme Christianists committing atrocities. Violent Christianists are a reality in different parts of the world—including the United States—and the fact that the mainstream media don’t give them as much coverage as ISIS or Boko Haram doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

No group has a monopoly on evil, and certainly Christians have in history committed terrible atrocities in the name of their religion. The difference is that the Christian perpetrators of these atrocities did not and could not justify them by pointing to exhortations to such violence in Christian texts and teachings, while Islamic jihadis can and do justify their actions and make recruits among peaceful Muslims by pointing to Islamic texts and teachings exhorting the believers to be violent.

Salon, nonetheless, is determined to obscure that fact and prop up some “Christian terrorist groups” that Americans ought to be as wary of as they are of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Yet none of these groups enjoy anything like the broad support among Christians that the Islamic State or al-Qaeda have among Muslims — have 25,000 Christians traveled from all over the world to join the Army of God? Nor does any sect of Christianity teach that Christians have a duty to wage war against and subjugate unbelievers.

What’s more, almost all of the violence listed in Salon as having been committed by these Christian groups took place many years ago, suggesting that these groups are more or less moribund today — which, unfortunately, cannot be said of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. And even if all these violent acts had actually been committed recently by Bible-quoting Christians with the full approval of numerous Christian clerics and churches (which is not even close to being true), they still don’t add up to anything remotely comparable to the 25,000+ acts of jihad violence that Muslims have committed since 9/11.

Henderson’s first Christian terrorist group is the “Army of God,” which he describes as “a network of violent Christianists that has been active since the early 1980s.” According to Henderson, “the Army of God openly promotes killing abortion providers.” He then lists a handful of these killings and other acts of violence by the Army of God, mostly in the 1990s and none more recent than 2009. Then he adds:

Although primarily an anti-abortion organization, the Army of God also has a history of promoting violence against gays.

No Christian sect teaches that it is right to kill abortionists or gays. And as the Army of God has apparently not killed any since 2009, it seems to have been effectively neutralized.

Henderson’s next Christian terrorist group is “Eastern Lightning, a.k.a. the Church of the Almighty God,” which was “founded in Henan Province, China in 1990.” Henderson informs us that “Eastern Lightning believes that the world is coming to an end, and in the meantime, its duty is to slay as many demons as possible. While most Christianists have an extremely patriarchal viewpoint (much like their Islamist counterparts) and consider women inferior to men, Eastern Lightning believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the form of a Chinese woman.” Despite this oddly feminine emphasis, however,

they are quite capable of violence against women: in May 2014, for example, members of the cult beat a 37-year-old woman named Wu Shuoyan to death in a McDonalds in Zhaoyuan, China when she refused to give them her phone number.

I never heard of this group before, and it sounds very strange: with its Jesus-is-coming-back-as-a-Chinese-woman thing, it is hardly anything close to mainstream Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant. Also, Jesus never says anything in the Gospels about beating women to death if they refuse to hand over their phone numbers.

Does Salon really seriously think that this gang of psychopathic thugs is equivalent to an organized international network of dedicated jihadis such as al-Qaeda?

Henderson follows this odd group with the inevitable reference to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the most commonly referenced group by those who try to claim that Christianity is just as likely to incite its adherents to violence as Islam. “The LRA, according to Human Rights Watch,” says Henderson,

has committed thousands of killings and kidnappings—and along the way, its terrorism spread from Uganda to parts of the Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. The word “jihadist” is seldom used in connection with the LRA, but in fact, the LRA’s tactics are not unlike those of ISIS or Boko Haram. And the governments Kony hopes to establish in Sub-Saharan Africa would implement a Christianist equivalent of Islamic Sharia law.

In reality, the Lord’s Resistance Army is funded by Sudanese jihadis, and reflects a Christian theology that is held by no Christian sect anywhere — in stark contrast to the undeniable fact that all the mainstream sects of Islam and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach warfare against and subjugation of unbelievers.

Henderson then introduces us to the “National Liberation Front of Tripura,” which, he says, is “a paramilitary Christianist movement that hopes to secede from India and establish a Christian fundamentalist government in Tripura.” He says this group perpetrates violence against Hindus, but offers no examples more recent than 2003.

Another neutralized group.

Then comes the Phineas Priesthood, which is, if Henderson’s description is accurate, a white supremacist group. Yet no sect of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, teaches the supremacy of any race.

In fact, Christianity teaches that all people are made in God’s image and are equal in dignity before God. Islam does not.

Salon’s last group of Christian terrorists is the Concerned Christians. “In 1999,” says Henderson, “Israeli officials arrested 14 members of the Concerned Christians in Jerusalem and deported them from Israel because they suspected them of plotting terrorist attacks against Muslims.” After that there was apparently nothing until 2014, “when Adam Everett Livix, a Christianist from Texas, was arrested by Israeli police on suspicion of plotting to blow up Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.” Harming his own case, Henderson adds that

in 2008, Denver’s KUSA-TV (an NBC affiliate) reported that members of the Concerned Citizens had gone into hiding and that Miller [the group’s founder] hadn’t been seen in ten years.

Here again, Christianity doesn’t teach that Christians should blow up the holy places of other religions. It doesn’t teach “slay the non-Christians wherever you find them” (cf. Qur’an 9:5) or fight them “until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29) It doesn’t teach that non-Christians are “the most vile of created beings” (Qur’an 98:6).

All of the groups Henderson describes are eccentric, marginal sects, with nothing remotely comparable to the following that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have among Muslims. Accordingly, there is no real equivalence between them and jihad groups. Probably even Salon knows that. But it continues to do all it can to try to ensure that you don’t.

*****

image illustration via shutterstock /  

Read bullet | 30 Comments »

‘Some Real Bad Bitches,’ or Loyal Citizens of the Islamic State?

Monday, April 6th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

“Why can’t we be some real bad bitches?” Noelle Velentzas, a 28-year-old convert to Islam, asked her friend, Asia Siddiqui, who is also a Muslim. Velentzas said to Siddiqui that people should think of them both as “citizens of the Islamic State.” And so in due course they set out to prove that they were both – “bad bitches” and good Islamic State citizens – by plotting jihad attacks in the U.S.

Velentzas considered herself a citizen of the Islamic State, but she was impatient. It was expensive, difficult and risky to make one’s way all the way over there, and anyway there was no need: a citizen of the Islamic State could “make history” by “pleasing Allah” right in the United States. And what would please Allah more than the murder of a large number of infidels – which is exactly what she and Siddiqui set out to accomplish?

The good citizens didn’t realize, however, that their fellow jihadi with whom they were discussing the logistics of various bomb plots was actually working for the FBI. Last Thursday, they were arrested – and not long thereafter, it came to light that they were both active and respected members of the Masjid Al-Hamdulillah mosque in Brooklyn.

The mosque’s imam, Charles Aziz Bilal, had nothing but praise for Velentzas and her family: “They have been an upright family,” he said. “Very honest, very sincere, very dedicated family. They’re family-oriented. They have children in the community, born in the mosque. Good religious people.” He confirmed that both Velentzas and Siddiqui were members of the mosque in good standing.

Bilal dismissed, however, the idea that either one could have learned to be “bad bitches” who were “citizens of the Islamic State” at good old Masjid Al-Hamdulillah. “That’s not what we promote here,” he assured Newsday, and that was that. He characterized Velentzas as “a mother who took care of her daughter, normal. Very friendly, nothing political, nothing extremist.” As for jihad terror activity, he said that if Velentzas and Siddiqui had really been involved in it, “they were doing it on the down low.”

What else did you expect him to say? “Oh, yes, we put them up to it, kaffir”? “Yes, we all knew about what they were doing, and we all approved”?

It is no surprise at all that Imam Charles Aziz Bilal of Masjid Al-Hamdulillah would say these things. What is unfortunate is that the mainstream media takes these statements at face value, with no attempt to determine whether or not he is telling the truth.

This is despite the fact that four separate studies conducted since 1998 have all found that 80% of U.S. mosques were teaching jihad, Islamic supremacism, and hatred and contempt for Jews and Christians.

There are no countervailing studies that challenge these results. In 1998, Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi leader, visited 114 mosques in the United States. Then he gave testimony before a State Department Open Forum in January 1999, and asserted that 80% of American mosques taught the “extremist ideology.”

Then there was the Center for Religious Freedom’s 2005 study, and the Mapping Sharia Project’s 2008 study. Each independently showed that upwards of 80% of mosques in America were preaching hatred of Jews and Christians and the necessity ultimately to impose Islamic rule.

And in the summer of 2011 came another study showing that only 19% of mosques in the U.S. don’t teach jihad violence and/or Islamic supremacism.

Specifically:

A random survey of 100 representative mosques in the U.S. was conducted to measure the correlation between Sharia adherence and dogma calling for violence against non-believers. Of the 100 mosques surveyed, 51% had texts on site rated as severely advocating violence; 30% had texts rated as moderately advocating violence; and 19% had no violent texts at all. Mosques that presented as Sharia adherent were more likely to feature violence-positive texts on site than were their non-Sharia-adherent counterparts. In 84.5% of the mosques, the imam recommended studying violence-positive texts. The leadership at Sharia-adherent mosques was more likely to recommend that a worshiper study violence-positive texts than leadership at non-Sharia-adherent mosques. Fifty-eight percent of the mosques invited guest imams known to promote violent jihad. The leadership of mosques that featured violence-positive literature was more likely to invite guest imams who were known to promote violent jihad than was the leadership of mosques that did not feature violence-positive literature on mosque premises.

That means that around 1,700 mosques in the U.S. could be preaching hatred of infidels and justifying violence against them.

Could Charles Aziz Bilal’s Masjid Al-Hamdulillah be one of them? We will never know without a thorough investigation, which is unlikely to be forthcoming. And without it, suspicions will linger that Noelle Velentzas and Asia Siddiqui first learned to be “bad bitches” right down at the local mosque, and that Bilal’s surprise at hearing about the charges against them was…not all that it seemed to be.

Most of today’s right-thinking elites would be aghast at the very existence of suspicions, and would immediately insist that they be buried under flower beds of tolerance and multiculturalism. But how long can the United States and the free world really afford to do that?

Image via Youtube.com/Screengrab

Read bullet | 14 Comments »

Why Atheists Are a Myth

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

CHIMERA!!!!

People seem to be scared of atheists. When polling companies survey people as to whether they would vote for candidates of certain religions for president, atheists usually come in last — and you’ve seen how the candidates we do vote for are. Many people actually seem frightened of atheists as if they’re amoral monsters, like vampires or werewolves.

But luckily, like vampires and werewolves, atheists don’t exist.

I mean, what is the definition of an atheist? He’s someone who doesn’t believe in God or any other unprovable, supernatural ideas and instead lives his life based on logic and reason. And the reason this sounds scary to many people is that if one is completely logical, one can conclude things like,

“Well, I end in the exact same oblivion whether I spend my life helping people or murdering people, so I guess I can just do whatever I feel like in this completely random, purposeless universe.”

So we fear atheists the way we fear that a robot’s AI might suddenly use its logic to decide to kill all humans. But the reason you pretty much never see atheists decide to kill humans is: Unlike robots but quite like all humans, atheists are not very logical, and any suggestion that they are is mainly just pretense.

Now, I talked a bit about this in my article on the future of religion, but it’s worth pointing out again that human beings are extremely irrational. All of them.This is very obvious and shouldn’t really need to be argued.

And we need to be irrational in order to function. No one gets up each morning and says, “What’s the logical thing to do? Eat some breakfast. But why? Because I’m hungry. But why do I want to stop my hunger? Because I need to survive. But why do I want to survive? Because I want to live long enough to watch the new Star Wars movie. But why…”

You can reason out everything you do all day, but you couldn’t actually function that way. And certainly no one has logically come up with a set of moral values. If you ask an atheist whether people should be kind to each other, most (except the most nihilistic — for instance, Rico in my novel Superego) will give you some hand-wavy nonsense about why people should be kind. But this isn’t math. There are no axioms you can follow that lead to logical proof that there’s an advantage to being a good person. So if atheists don’t get their beliefs from logic, where do they get them?

Quite obviously, they get them from the culture around them. If you know any atheists, they don’t tend to have a radically different set of values about stealing, murder, or auto-play videos than the other people they interact with. In fact, the profession of disbelief in God is often the biggest distinction itself. Despite what they may claim, they don’t build a new morality out of whole cloth, but instead just adopt most of their morality from whatever the dominant religion is around them. And again, it has nothing to do with logic.

Look at one of the most popular “secular” values right now: equality. It makes no logical sense whatsoever. Evolution cares absolutely nothing about equality; its engine favors some as superior over others. And there is certainly no evolutionary evidence for equality between man and woman; in fact, evolution is very happy for men and women to be unequal, with each serving distinct purposes, and if one has to oppress the other to do that, that’s fine.

But from a Christian viewpoint, equality is very obvious. We all have eternal souls, and thus our differences in this world are rather insignificant when the everlasting part of us is the same. Now people who don’t profess to believe in God or souls still find this concept of equality to be a Truth. And that’s how we get all our morality — not through logic, but because the idea feels right deep inside us. And you might consider that silly nonsense, but it’s silly nonsense you participate in all the same.

I think where a lot of the confusion lies, and where we get the idea that people can be non-religious, is the idea that there is some sort of useful distinction between religious beliefs and just plain beliefs. Religious beliefs are unprovable ideas from silly old texts, while regular beliefs are unprovable ideas that came from… out of the ether, I guess.

Still, the religious ones seem scary to many, because people seem unstoppable and can commit any atrocity if they believe God is behind them. But the fact is that every single person has deeply held beliefs, often ones they will kill for (or, more nobly, die for). Look at which belief system killed millions of people over the last century: Communism. Most would call that a bad belief in economics rather than a bad religious belief, but it is a belief held strongly enough to kill over, and people will always come up with more of those, whether you label them religion or not.

Because whatever our strongly held beliefs are, that is our religion.

There’s no such thing as religious versus non-religious; there’s just organized religion versus disorganized religion. Probably a big difference between me and an atheist is that I can easily write out a list of unprovable things I believe in while an atheist would have more trouble listing them while still having just as many beliefs.

And because we all have these unprovable beliefs that guide our actions, that’s why it’s nonsense to try to keep religion out of politics, as everything we do is religion.

Like my belief in liberty — people would call that a secular value, but if you trace the origin of it, you find a Christian belief in the importance of free will and people making choices for themselves. Atheists, of course, believe in liberty too, but they might have more trouble finding the origin of those beliefs. But this is part of why I say there aren’t really atheists, because if you take all the values you hold most dear and put them together, you’ll find the god you worship — whether you call him God or not. And despite the arguing between Christians and atheists, I doubt our conception of God is really that much different.

Related at PJ this morning from Andrew Klavan: 

Knowing God by His Enemies (Starring S. Crowder)

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | 381 Comments »

Persecution Is Coming to the American Church

Sunday, April 5th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

We’ve witnessed a dramatic shift in the culture in just the last 10 years in the United States. There’s hardly a moral tenet of Western civilization that has been left unscathed by the Progressive warriors who seek to blur the lines between Right and Wrong. Someone can now stand in the town square and proclaim that 2+2 = 5  and no one will look askance at him because truth is said to be fluid and evolving. Who is to say his equation is wrong?

We’ve seen an emerging — and virulent —  strain of intolerance and bigotry in recent years directed at Christians who hold to the traditional, orthodox teachings of the faith, and there’s more bubbling up from beneath the surface of our once predominantly Christian nation. The mayhem we witnessed in Indiana this past week is just the tip of the iceberg

Unless God intervenes, persecution is coming to those who refuse to bow the knee to the new religions of tolerance and erotic liberty. By persecution I don’t mean that we’ll see Christians beheaded or ISIS-style crucifixions of Christians in the United States. But I do believe that Christians will be marginalized in society — they’ll be fired from their jobs, lose their businesses, and they’ll be increasingly silenced in the public square. We may see the government seeking to muzzle (or even shutter) Christian schools and even churches as the message of the gospel becomes anathema to the prevailing culture.

How will the Christian church — with its moral absolutes and 2000-year old traditions —  fit into this new moral paradigm and how should it respond?

As we celebrate Easter Sunday and contemplate the crucifixion of Christ and His victory over death and sin, let us also consider how the American church will respond to the new — and very foreign — cultural norms that have been thrust upon us.

The Apostle Peter, writing to the exiled church in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), has some prescient advice for the modern church and he gives us a template for how Christians are to live in the midst of a pagan culture that is diametrically opposed to their faith: be sober-minded, be holy, and be watchful.

In his first letter to the church (read the whole thing here) Peter encourages Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (which was then firmly under Roman control) to endure suffering and persecution by devoting themselves to God and following the example of Christ.

Peter warns them to prepare their minds for action and to be sober-minded. The King James Version translates that passage, “gird up the loins of your mind,” which connotes a war of ideas for which the believer must be mentally prepared. This is more than a feel-good religion or a gospel of prosperity. Peter makes it clear that clear-headedness and right thinking — based on biblical truth —  are essential during an age when evil prevails. Like the Christians living in Asia-Minor in the first century, American Christians in the 21st century will need to be serious and intellectually equipped for the present battles.

But intellect and a sound mind are not sufficient. Peter goes on to say:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

He’s speaking to a church here that is likely made up mostly of former pagans, so their “former ignorance” refers to the prevailing practices of the Greco-Roman culture, which embraced dehumanizing injustices against women, children, the sick and frail as well as tolerating a wide variety of sexual perversions including pederasty, open prostitution, and erotic art and literature.

Peter tells the church to be holy, setting themselves apart from the culture in which they live by imitating their heavenly Father and reflecting the character of God in their lives. How to do that? Peter ticks off a list of some of the hallmarks of holy living in the next several verses:

  1. Obedience to the truth
  2. A sincere brotherly love from a pure heart
  3. Putting away malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander
  4. Longing for pure spiritual milk (God’s word)
  5. Abstaining from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul
  6. Keeping your conduct among the Gentiles honorable so they may see your good deeds and glorify God
  7. Honoring everyone
  8. Loving the brotherhood
  9. Fearing God
  10. Honoring the emperor

The church will only withstand the coming persecution if it is holy and obedient to the word of God and if God’s people set themselves apart from the world by their behavior and their love for one another and for their neighbors.

Peter tells the Christians to be “zealous for what is good” even if it means they must suffer for righteousness’ sake:

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

He contrasts the standards for Christian living with the way the Gentiles (unbelievers) live, “in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” Peter says unbelievers are surprised,

when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Nevertheless, he warns the church to be watchful because “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Christians are to be firm in their faith and resist evil, “knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Indeed, our resolve is fortified as we see almost daily reports of our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering physical persecution and death because they refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ.

Surely the American church can endure unkind words and bullying — even a job loss or jail time — as we see Christians on the other side of the world enduring so much more.

Peter ends the book by encouraging the believers. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Our time on earth is a blink of an eye compared to eternity. We can endure trials and persecution if we set our eyes above and stay watchful, keeping our minds clear and striving to imitate Christ in our lives.

Read bullet | 58 Comments »

7 Big Bible Movies for Your Holiday Weekend

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by James Jay Carafano

In 2013, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett produced The Bible, a television miniseries that drew a cable audience of over 13 million. They then recut the miniseries into a successful theatrical release: 2014’s Son of God.

Late this March, the National Geographic Channel attracted a record-breaking audience with its adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book, Killing Jesus.

The Christian ratings rampage seems a bit of a head scratcher. The statistics say our nation is rapidly becoming less religious. The Pew Forum finds, for instance, that “[w]hile nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.” And, for the first time, Protestants are on the verge of becoming an American minority.

Yet, the Almighty’s resurgence on screen is not restricted to niche cable channels. A.D. The Bible Continues, a sequel to Burnett’s original mini-series, has a primetime broadcast premiere on Easter Sunday.  The suits at NBC wouldn’t green-light a project like this unless they thought it would pull a broad audience.

Maybe the Bible is back because it never left. While Americans may be less likely to self-identify with a particular formal religion, they are part of a nation whose roots are grounded in a strong religious heritage. “We ignore at our peril,” writes scholar Mark David Hall,

“the Founders’ insight that democracy requires a moral people and that faith is an important, if not indispensable, support for morality.”

The Judeo-Christian faith has always been entwined with American culture, even in hedonistic Hollywood.  Here are seven of the most significant Bible-based movies from Tinseltown.

7. The Ten Commandments (1923)

Cecil B. DeMille was, as one paper wrote, “the Golden Age of Hollywood in a single man.” He knew the kinds of films the American public would hand over their hard-earned cash to see. DeMille delivered a string of films based on the Bible, beginning with this silent screen epic depicting the exodus from Egypt (as well as a modern-day morality tale showing the wisdom of following the 10 Commandments). At the time, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made—and a huge box-office hit.

6. The King of Kings (1927)

DeMille followed-up with a film based on the life of Jesus. He enlisted a cadre of religious advisors to help steer clear of charges of antisemitism. However, not everyone was satisfied on that score. The resulting controversy, in part, led Hollywood to adopt the 1930 Production Code provision that barred “[w]illful offense to any nation, race or creed” from the silver screen. Still, it was a good film on the final days of Jesus’ ministry, better than many of the “talkies”—such as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)—that followed.

5. The Ten Commandments (1956)

DeMille returned with a remake of the story Moses, this time on an even grander scale (and in Technicolor!). It was the height of the Cold War and Americans craved a shot of moral courage. With Charlton Heston in the lead, the film was a phenomenal success at the box office and nominated for seven Academy Awards. One wonders how Ridley Scott thought he could top that. His 2014 remake was a disaster for the Egyptians and moviegoers. Many consider it the worst movie Scott ever made. Stick with Heston and DeMille.

4. Barabbas (1961)

Not every Bible-themed movie was made by DeMille. Indeed, some of them—like Barabbas—have precious little to do with the Bible. In this gritty, action-packed movie, Anthony Quinn plays the thief Pontius Pilate freed instead of Jesus. The movie imagines the rest of Barabbas’ life, including his own confession and redemption.

Similar films like The Robe (1953) and Ben-Hur (1959) also played on themes related to the life of Jesus Christ, part of Hollywood’s effort to cash in and be bigger than the Bible. Barabbas also marked the beginning of the end of Hollywood’s Bible craze. After the upheavals of 1960s, the only way God could get on the silver screen was in rock-n-roll musicals like Godspell (1973) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) or an irreverent comedy like Life of Bryan (1979).

3. King David (1985)

Trust me, this movie is not on the list because it’s particularly good. Making heartthrob Richard Gere the king of the Israelites must have seemed like a good idea at the time but the movie bombed. Gere was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for worst actor (though he lost to Sylvester Stallone). What was significant about the film was that the Bible was back after a long hiatus in Hollywood. Hollywood’s anger and post-Vietnam War, anti-establishment angst mellowed in the Reagan era.

The Bible was once again okay—although King David’s dismal box office dampened the suits’ enthusiasm for Bible epics for a good while.

2. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Another not very good film that needs to be on the list. “Artsy” types liked the Martin Scorsese movie, but the box office was just so-so. For years, this and other films that played with the Christian story were disconnected from Americans. As a result,they received little attention.

1. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

It’s hard not to respect this controversial and disturbing film by Mel Gibson. “The violence aside,” wrote the film critic for Christianity Today, the movie conveys “the divinity and humanity of Christ, respectively; and, more than any recent director, Gibson captures the grand supernatural conflict which gives the death of Christ its meaning.”

Compare this movie to recent “big” Hollywood productions like Scott’s Exodus or the unwatchable Noah (2014) and you’ll see why films that try to tell the Christian story touch something in Americans, while those that try to cash in by turning the Bible into another Fast and Furious sequel flop with most movie-goers.

Read bullet | 25 Comments »

What Did Jesus’ Wine Taste Like?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Robert Wargas

shutterstock_62724913

I do remember, during religious instruction as a child, hearing the constant references to wine in the Bible and wondering what it tasted like. Being quite young then, I imagined it was like my delicious grape juice. As I grew older and began to love dry red wine, I still wondered whether ancient wines tasted anything remotely like my Pinot Noir.

From the Orange County Register:

Grapes were the first cultivated plants mentioned in the Bible, she said. In her book, [author Kitty] Morse writes: “Grapes grew in even more abundance than olives… Wines from the Holy Land provided a significant source of income, especially during Roman rule. The wine from Bethlehem was of particularly high quality and considered a gift worthy of royalty.”

Still, she thinks it couldn’t have been delicious.

“It wasn’t intended for the Roman emperors,” Morse said, explaining that the peasants in the Middle East weren’t as sophisticated about wine as the ruling class. “They were happy if it fermented and if it cured some ailments.”

If that’s the case, then the wine served at the Last Supper would have been peasant table wine. Much more rustic than the wine enjoyed at the wedding at Cana, a special drink reserved for a stately occasion. The difference between the two would come down to farming and styling.

That peasant table wine can’t have been any worse than some of those horrendous pseudo-wines they sell in the supermarket. There are some great wines that are very cheap—one of my favorite Chiantis is about eight bucks—but most cheap things are cheap for a reason.

The article also mentions that Romans liked to spice their wine with cinnamon. Who else wants to try this immediately?

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | 21 Comments »

Why ‘Jewish Unity’ — Even at Passover — Is Unachievable

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

shutterstock_179360870

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”

So wrote Benjamin Netanyahu in a Facebook post on March 17, the day of Israel’s elections. Since then the words have been a cause célèbre among critics of Israel—and not least, American Jewish liberals.

The Jerusalem Post reports that a “yawning divide has opened between liberal US Jews and the right-wing Jewish Israeli majority that reelected…Netanyahu,” and that:

More than any of the prime minister’s other statements—which included skepticism about the feasibility of the two-state solution and complaints about foreign influence on Israeli politics—Netanyahu’s fear-mongering against Arabs touched a deep nerve among US liberals who voted for Obama.

Among many other responses, Netanyahu’s words have sparked calls by American Jewish liberals Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami (president of J Street) for the Obama administration to “punish” Israel and boycott its presence in lands captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

Now that Passover is here, we hear the usual calls for Jewish unity: we’ve all been in it together a long time, and continue to face challenges. But is unity really a possibility? Is there a way to bridge the “yawning divide” between Israel and liberal American Jews who are convinced that the Jewish state has lost its way?

To begin with, Netanyahu’s words weren’t lovely. He could have softened them by substituting, perhaps, “Arab citizens who oppose me” for “Arab voters.” He was indeed playing on fears; he wanted to make sure complacent people went out and voted for his Likud Party.

It’s been pointed out, though, that such things have been known to happen in bitterly contested campaigns. In the 2012 U.S. campaign, Joe Biden’s statement to a largely African-American audience that the Republicans would “put you all back in chains” was a clear case of racial fear-mongering.

It didn’t, however, evoke horror among American Jewish liberals—let alone calls to punish America, or declarations that they were disengaging from it as a country.

It can also be pointed out that Netanyahu’s remark was atypical of him, and that a few days later he apologized to Israeli Arabs. And it may also be worth pointing out that Israel’s Arab minority indeed “votes in droves,” has full rights, and sees Israel as a “good place to live.”

But it’s not enough to impress Jewish liberals of the Beinart and Ben-Ami stripe. They say they can no longer “identify” with an Israel that—in their view—no longer makes the grade morally.

Apart from Netanyahu’s Facebook post, their bitterest complaint is that Israel’s 2015 elections have returned two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties to the governing coalition—parties that take a dim view of the Conservative, and particularly Reform, Judaism that many American Jewish liberals practice.

Here, though, it seems that Israel can’t win. Ultra-Orthodox Jews form about 10 percent of the Israeli Jewish population and are entitled to political representation. It’s known as democracy. Real friends of Israel admire its democracy and are prepared to respect the results of its elections. But for American Jewish liberals, Israel only gets credit if the election results are to their liking.

Confession: I normally don’t pay too much attention to American Jewish liberals or read much of what they write. My own impression, though, from some Facebook disputes with some of them is that Netanyahu’s “Arab voters” indiscretion didn’t so much cause them dismay, but  something more like schadenfreude—or even, deep down, celebration.

In other words, they’ve been looking for an excuse to disengage from Israel, and Netanyahu’s words gave them one. Their real problem with Israel is that, when they look at it, they don’t get the sensation of looking into a mirror; they don’t see themselves.

In the closed cultural, moral, and political world of what is now called “liberalism” — of which American Jewish liberals are very much a part — a hawkish Israeli electorate that views its environment as threatening is not acceptable. Environments are not threatening by nature; one makes them threatening by creating grievances among people — in Israel’s case, by “denying the Palestinians a state.”

Here, objections about Hamas, or the violent outcomes of previous Israeli concessions, will get you nowhere. In the comfortable world of Israel’s “liberal” overseas brethren, one resolves threats by making deals and goes on with one’s comfortable life.

The antagonism to religion’s role in Israel similarly disregards the fact that Israel is a Middle Eastern country where religion is not just a marginal phenomenon but a key source of identity and values, and yes, a significant political player. For most American Jewish liberals, religion has to be quarantined from public life. Israel follows a different historical trajectory; its sense of self, symbols, commemorations, and even language have grown from a substrate of Judaism. Again, it doesn’t fit the “liberal” box.

If Israel and part of Diaspora Jewry are in different orbits of values and ideology, how much should it concern us here in Israel? That some Diaspora Jews adopt a general mindset that weakens their bond to specific Jewish nationality or religion is actually, from a Zionist standpoint, inevitable. One could wish it otherwise, but it’s in the cards that some Disapora Jews drift away from us.

The main downside is that some of these “liberal” brethren, endorsing an anti-Israeli government of their own, are going to be hitting us hard in public. It doesn’t make for much “unity.” But Passover tells us that, since the days of the Book of Exodus, we’ve survived worse things.

******

image illustration via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | 46 Comments »

WATCH: Passover, Rube Goldberg Style

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Need a way to explain Passover to a kinesthetic learner or future engineer? Check out this video from Israel and you’ll be saying, “L’shana haba b’Technion!”

Chag Peseach Sameach!

Read bullet | Comments »

Fooled Again: Why Do So Many American Converts to Islam Learn to Hate Their Home?

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

 Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 6.20.32 AM

Spc. Hasan Edmonds, a Muslim member of the U.S. Army National Guard, was arrested last Wednesday at Chicago’s Midway Airport. He had been planning to join the Islamic State. His cousin, Jonas “Yunus” Edmonds, was arrested as well. They had allegedly been plotting a jihad attack against a U.S. military facility – making Hasan Edmonds the latest in a long line of people who convert to Islam and then turn traitor.

Is it just a coincidence that so many converts to Islam come to regard the country in which they were born and raised, the land of the families and forefathers, as an enemy? Or is there some connection?

Hasan Edmonds clearly believed that his new religion required a shift of his allegiance. “I am already in the American kafir [infidel] army,” he told an informant in January, “and now I wish only to serve in the army of Allah alongside my true brothers.”

He also expressed the desire to carry out a jihad attack in the U.S. – something on the scale of January’s jihad murders in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket: “Honestly,” said Edmonds, “we would love to do something like the brother in Paris did” – that is, commit mass murder among people he had once considered his countrymen, and whom he had, as a National Guard member, sworn to protect

Edmonds thus joins other American converts to Islam who have turned traitor, including Sgt. Hasan Akbar, an American engineer from the 101st Airborne Division, who murdered Captain Christopher Scott Seifert, Major Gregory Stone, and wounded fifteen others in a grenade and small-arms attack in northern Kuwait on March 22, 2003. As he committed his murders, he yelled:

You guys are coming into our countries, and you’re going to rape our women and kill our children.

Yet Akbar was not Iraqi or Kuwaiti. He was an American from Los Angeles. But when he became a Muslim, any allegiance he may have had to America was gone. Likewise al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn and the Marin County Mujahid, John Walker Lindh, both of whom converted to Islam and ended up waging war against the country of their birth, on behalf of its enemies.

It isn’t just converts, either. A Muslim woman named Aqsa Mahmood is suspected of recruiting young women to join her in the Islamic State as “jihadi brides.” The BBC identified her in a February report as a “Scottish woman,” which means that she made her way from the land of her birth to join up with a group that has declared war upon Great Britain and the rest of the non-Muslim world.

Despite the BBC’s ready identifier of her nationality, however, it is extremely unlikely that Aqsa Mahmood considers herself a Scot in any way other than geographically. She almost certainly grew up in a Muslim area and was taught Islamic values, including the idea that one’s allegiance to Islam transcends all other allegiances, and that one is a member of the international Muslim community, the umma, before being anything else. Those ideas go along with distaste that the “best of people” (Qur’an 3:110) should have for the jahiliyya, the society of the “most vile of created beings” (Qur’an 98:6) — unbelievers.

Simply by going to the Islamic State, Aqsa Mahmood showed that she clearly rejects a great deal of what most Scots would consider essential to what it means to be a Scot.

Yet for the BBC, she is as Scottish as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots — reflecting a key dogma of the Left: that sociocultural values are the same everywhere, and thus it is only geography that makes for nationality. Move a Russian to Poland, and presto, his children will be Polish.

The Western intelligentsia believes that if Aqsa Mahmood’s parents move to Scotland, and Aqsa is born there, Aqsa will grow up Scottish, with Scottish values — and that if she doesn’t, it is the fault of Scottish authorities, who declined to allow him to assimilate because of their racism. The idea that Aqsa’s parents (despite their protestations in reports about her activity) and other Muslims in Scotland might have had no interest in assimilating is not allowed to be discussed.

Meanwhile, if a group of Scots moved to Syria and established a small enclave, a Little Scotland within Syria, and had children born in Syria, would their children be considered Syrians, open and shut, without question? Would the BBC refer to them as Syrians, as in “a Syrian man, Alexander Burns”?

And will there be an honest discussion in the mainstream media about the relationship between Muslims’ allegiance to Islam and loyalty to the non-Muslim states in which they reside? Inconceivable – and that means that Aqsa Mahmood and Hasan Edmonds will not be the last Muslims to turn against their country, any more than they were the first.

*****

image illustrations via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | 26 Comments »

Why Jewish Women Scare Lena Dunham (and the Rest of Hollywood)

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Jewish women are fierce. We carry many arrows in our quiver including love for life, command of the situation, determined opinions, and freedom of expression. We are not lithe and unfettered. We do not “go with the flow.” We don’t wait until we are on our deathbeds to express our emotions, resolve hurt feelings, or pursue our passions.

Ultra-Orthodox men pray thanks to God that they were not created a woman. This is only because they don’t have ovaries enough to take on our mantle.We are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, prophetesses, administrators, investors, and the greatest security blanket men will ever know. But perhaps what shocks these religious men the most is that we regret none of it. This is why they need to hide behind sheets to protect themselves from their own animal lust for us, that is precisely how powerful we are. 

Thank God we are women; someone has to be in charge of this mess. And that is precisely why we are the objects of fear and scorn. Because what you cannot control, you try to contain and what you cannot contain you either love or hate with reckless abandon.

Hence, Jewish women are constantly the brunt of jokes in the entertainment world. Whether it’s yet another good Jewish boy succumbing to shiksappeal or Lena Dunham berating her Jewish boyfriend’s mother, Hebrew women just can’t win.  Our intellect becomes neurosis, our love becomes smothering, our agility becomes goofiness, our sexiness our comedy. In Freudian terms we are the mother from which no man can escape. In pop culture terms we’re the JAP, Jewish American Princess, to whom guilty Jewish men are obligated to commit in misery forever. When God commanded circumcision we’re the ones who didn’t stand in the way and now we’re doomed to forever pay the price for our holy allegiance.

But, don’t be fooled for one second into thinking we’re slaves. Dunham blames her boyfriend’s failings on his mother’s supposed cultural weaknesses:

…he comes from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates. …As a result of this dynamic, he expects to be waited on hand and foot by the women in his life, and anything less than that makes him whiny and distant.

She offers the asinine complaint of feminism, the pagan belief that a woman cannot ever be truly independent because she is umbilically tethered to fostering life. It is a bizarre notion, one that makes no sense if we’re talking power and authority. A child cannot survive without its mother. Said mother not only nurtures and carries life within her body, she is the primary influence on that child from the moment they are born until the day they die. For better or worse, a mother’s relationship with her child has the greatest impact on their social, emotional and character development. Dunham acknowledges this concept in the negative only because she rejects her own womb as a burden instead of the greatest source of a woman’s power on earth.

Statistically Jewish women enjoy having children. Stereotypically, we have lovingly been dubbed “smothers.” Weaklings like Dunham who reject their womb power find humor in these stereotypes because their own egos are a poor substitute for the authority intrinsic to motherhood. They must constantly jab under the guise of humor in order to recharge their power source. Real women thrive on building up the ones they love. Lost women who have surrendered their biological power to political leadership are left seeking to offend. In the end, it is their only reward.

So if you ever wonder why feminists are stereotyped as bitter hags, look no further than the angst-ridden humor of Lena Dunham, feminism’s pop goddess who has sacrificed her wedding on the altar of gay marriage, her womb on the altar of Planned Parenthood. She has not chosen life, therefore death becomes her.

Read bullet | 19 Comments »

Are We Enslaved by Politics This Passover?

Sunday, March 29th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Recently I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation on the ability to confirm a religion’s biblical veracity. My editor, David Swindle, had been approached by Mormons a few days prior and was seeking out further explanation to understand how the Book of Mormon confirmed or contradicted the Word of God. The gentleman he engaged could not answer his question, so I stepped in with Deuteronomy 18:17-22: The Spirit of God does not contradict the Word of God. That is the test of any faith, religion, or spiritual leader claiming to represent the God of the Bible. God is One, He cannot contradict Himself. If a person claims to speak for God, their words better match His, plain and simple.

This concept has been tailored over time in Judaism due to the horrors of diasporas, invasions, and Temple destructions. The scholarly culture that began codifying the oral law that would become the Talmud eventually proclaimed themselves the inheritors of the gift of prophetic interpretation. In a bureaucratic coup, these ancestors of today’s rabbis took command of the prophetic role from God’s hands. Hence, today’s Judaism is informed by the concepts that the biblical manifestation of the prophet died with the second Temple, and the Talmud (Rabbinic oral law) is the equivalent of the Torah, leaving religious authority within the realm of the rabbis.

Yet, Torah teaches us that all human beings fail and that spiritual leaders schooled in this truth are held to a higher standard of behavior, because of their willful acknowledgement of and commitment to this truth. Knowing this, we are to be even more vigilant when it comes to scrutinizing our teachers and their teachings. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are free to judge each other in the process. Being human, we are far too susceptible to getting caught up in the cult of leader-worship, leaving us vulnerable to criticism when our leader fails.

Take, for example, the Forward’s Jay Michaelson questioning why adherents of disgraced Rabbi Barry Freundel didn’t come forward with their suspicions sooner:

How can some of our community’s leading (if self-appointed) cultural sages lionize and valorize someone who, in fact, they didn’t really know that well? …I also wonder what criteria we use to evaluate our spiritual leaders when a serial sex offender can sneak past them. …There are questions that should have been asked, suspicions that should have been raised. But the self-reinforcing loops of elite power — X likes him, X is powerful, therefore I should like him — blinded those entrusted to keep watch.

One of Freundel’s converts, Bethany Mandel, treats Michaelson’s observation as a criticism of her own ability to judge Freundel’s character, while illustrating that as a convert she was the one being judged in turn:

To be clear, Freundel had a great deal of power over us, but while he could sometimes be controlling and manipulative, he could also be our greatest defender. I will never forget the evening when my then-boyfriend and I agreed to host another couple for a meal…. Upon learning of my status as a convert-in-process, the couple refused to eat my food without hearing directly from the rabbi that it was safe according to the laws of kashrut. My then-boyfriend, a friend and the husband literally ran from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to knock on Freundel’s door to ask about the status of my food.

This dangerous cycle of judgment and blame makes us all victims of one another instead of family, friends, or event compatriots. We become so caught up in the opinions of others, whether they be rabbis or fellow Jews, that we lose sight of who God is and our true purpose in being a part of the Jewish world.

In the wake of Israel’s elections we are being baited once again by this cycle of judgment and blame. Rabbis now feel compelled to preach politics from the bench to congregants pressured to question their allegiance to the concluding line of the Passover Seder: “Next year in Jerusalem!” Instead of finding unity in our eternal freedom as Jews, we’re squabbling over political leaders who will come and go. Instead of taking joy in one another, we’re seeking authoritative approval of our political opinions. Instead of rejoicing in our freedom, we are being bound by the threat of destruction. And when we succumb to the fear we transition from freedom to slavery. This victimhood propels our judgment of and separation from one another.

The rabbinic claim to prophecy should motivate us as a community to engage with the Word of God firsthand, not with the goal of disproving one another, but with the aim of being the people God has chosen us to be. When it comes to religious leadership, it is our prerogative to “trust, but verify.” We cannot be blamed for the failings of others. But we are answerable to God for our own actions, and judging one another is not in His playbook.

Read bullet | 117 Comments »

Watch What Happens When 3 Muslim Spokesmen Are Asked About Islam’s Death Penalty for Apostasy

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

A recent episode of the BBC program The Big Questions was anomalous: instead of pumping out more of the usual fog of obfuscation and denial regarding the aspects of Islamic law incompatible with Western standards of human rights and human dignity — as do most BBC shows — it actually featured an honest discussion of Islam’s death penalty for apostasy.

Or it would have, that is, if the Muslim spokesmen on the show had been remotely honest about that penalty. Instead, they offered an instructive case study in how Islamic supremacists deal with uncomfortable aspects of Islam when speaking with infidels.

Despite denials from Muslims in the West, Islam’s death penalty for those who leave the faith is abundantly established.

The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated:

The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.

There is only disagreement over whether the law applies only to men, or to women also — some authorities hold that apostate women should not be killed, but only imprisoned in their houses until death.

The BBC program begins with ex-Muslim Amal Farah of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) and several Muslim spokesmen discussing Islamic law’s death penalty for apostasy. Farah, despite her affiliation with CEMB — which is often more concerned with smearing and demonizing genuine critics of jihad terror and Islamic supremacism than with actually defending apostates from Islam — is the one sane and rational voice in the discussion.

The Muslim spokesmen, by contrast, practice various forms of evasion and deflection, claiming victim status repeatedly. Abdullah al-Andalusi of the ironically named Muslim Debate Initiative is the worst, ascribing Islam’s death penalty for apostasy to “Victorian translations,” claiming that it is only a law in “post-colonial secular states,” and pouting that the BBC is conducting an “Inquisition court.” Note also how he dodges the question of whether or not he condemns the words of UK imam Haitham al-Haddad, who has defended the death penalty for apostasy.

After that, Usama Hasan, author of The Way of the Prophet: A Selection of Hadith, comes across as honest and forthright, but in reality, his obfuscation is just more sophisticated than al-Andalusi’s. He claims that the apostasy law is a product of the early Muslim states, never mentioning what the author of a hadith collection should know and undoubtedly does know: that according to a hadith, Muhammad said:

Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him (Bukhari 9.84.57).

This distinction is important, because if the death penalty for apostasy comes from the early Muslim states, it can be changed, but if it comes from Muhammad, the supreme example of conduct for Muslims (cf. Qur’an 33:21), it can’t.

Finally there is Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, who claims that “we believe in religious freedom. People are free to leave Islam.” Then he is exposed as having branded as a “defamer of the prophet” the professional moderate Maajid Nawaz for tweeting a Muhammad cartoon — a term that carries the death penalty in Pakistan. He backpedals here, while insisting that he was right to “defend” Muhammad.

The yawning absence here is that of a Muslim voice who will simply acknowledge that Islam has a death penalty for apostasy and say that it has to be reconsidered and reformed. There are no such voices. Instead, it’s the same as always: claims of victimization, deflection, blaming of the infidels, claims of hatred for Muslims — the usual responses we have seen thousands of times from Muslims in response to critics of jihad terror.

Read bullet | 41 Comments »

VIDEO: Feminism Needs This Disney Princess Power

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Lily James and Kenneth Branagh provided truly thoughtful, eloquent answers to the question of how Disney’s newest Cinderella embodies the reinvention of the princess in a 21st century feminist light.

Contrary to popular culture’s interpretation of sex as power through the crowning of figures like Queen Bey, the star and director of Cinderella each proffer the concept of a feminism that draws its power from a woman’s spirit rather than her body. It is Cinderella’s graceful attitude and her desire to treat others with goodness that is the source of both her beauty and ultimately her power as a woman.

The real question is, in a world full of Dunhams and Kardashians, is feminism ready to go spiritual to find the purpose it so desperately needs?

Read bullet | Comments »

Why Israel Is Ground Zero In the War Between Good and Evil

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

We Jews squabble enough when it comes to religion, but when it comes to Israel the gloves are off. Nothing is a greater testament to this than the vehement rhetoric coming from the Jewish Left in the wake of Netanyahu and the Right’s landslide victory in this past week’s elections in Israel. Whether it was Peter Beinart calling on the Obama Administration to “punish – yes, punish – the Israeli government” the virulent musings of Max Blumenthal, the anti-Israel Jewish Left came out in full condemnation, not just of Netanyahu, but of Israel at large.

The Forward jumped on the “Bibi is racist” bandwagon, reprinting Jeffrey Goldberg’s Tweet-condemnation of the slanderous tale embraced by Obama and his minions. If you are Jewish and have friends on the Left, I guarantee it didn’t take you longer than 10 minutes after Bibi claimed victory to get at least one Facebook post or Tweet claiming “he stole the election like Bush.” My PJ colleague Ron Radosh wisely diagnosed both the Obama Administration and the mainstream media as having Bibi Derangement Syndrome (BDS). And unfortunately, we Jews are not immune.

This BDS, with all its sound and fury, has not brought the diaspora one ounce closer to understanding or relating to their Israeli counterparts. In fact, with the Obama Administration trumpeting the effort to turn Israel into another Ferguson, the dual loyalty accusations will be held over Jewish American heads, both Left and Right, now more than ever. But we Jews don’t see that. All we see is Obama versus Bibi, Left versus Right, “hope and change” versus “despair” and whatever other hot air blown into an otherwise lifeless, meaningless campaign. From the comforts of a “two legs good, four legs better” America we don’t have to force ourselves to look behind V15′s green curtain, let alone consider that Israeli Jews may have very good reasons for having opinions that differ from our own.

When I had the wonderful opportunity to march in New York City’s Israel Day Parade a few years back, I did so under the banner of an openly progressive Labor Zionist summer camp. My husband, a third generation member, had worked his way up from camper, to counselor, to business manager. Now as an alum he was excited to show me, his then-girlfriend, what he loved about his summers and give me the chance to revel in my Zionist pride. He’d worked the camp too long not to see past the politics, but had too many fond memories to be jaded by a lack of logic. In the end we were there to celebrate Israel, celebrate our freedom, and have fun with friends.

Or so I thought, until more than one angry parade-goer spat at me. “You are evil! You anti-Zionist pig! You’re killing us! You Leftists are killing Israel!” How were a group of teens and twenty-somethings, most of whom had been to Israel, many of whom were either pursuing or had obtained citizenship, and some of whom had or were serving in the IDF possibly killing Israel? These kids weren’t doing anything more than holding a contrary political opinion, yet that was enough to accuse them of being murderers. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “isn’t that what the Left is always accusing us of doing?”

I smiled at the crowd and wished them love through their gritted teeth and rage. Only two days earlier I’d been called a “conservative pig” by another camp alum who would later growl at me repeatedly, “You need to change your politics.” I came wanting to celebrate Israel. I wound up embroiled in a hot, angry mess.

Israel awakens our passions as Jews because Israel is a reminder of our responsibilities to God and to one another. If Israel fails, Holocaust awaits. No one but a Jew could understand the weight of that burden. Yet, instead of recognizing that we, Left and Right, are motivated by these same concerns and fears we allow the real haters of Israel to craft our opinions about one another. Suddenly everyone is an Obama, a Beinart, a Blumenthal. Anger morphs into rage and crafts summer camp teens into the next generation of hardened, bigoted, miserable adults, some of whom will then be motivated to become the next Beinart or Blumenthal in our midst.

King David writes in the Psalms, “be angry, but do not sin. Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still.”

We’ve never lost Israel to an outside force before first disparaging each other to the point of destruction. I walked away from that parade choosing to shed my ideas of Left and Right and see the political battle for what it truly is: A fight between good and evil. My job, then, is to focus on what God commands me to do: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him without fear. I’m here to help sustain a great nation, not destroy it. It is time my fellow Zionists, Left and Right, see past the propaganda and agree to do the same.

Read bullet | Comments »

How the Catholic Core Defends the Church’s Positions on the Family

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Following troubling signals from the Vatican as well as remarks from Pope Francis himself over the months since his accession to office, a growing chorus of voices has risen registering concern regarding the Catholic Church’s position on social issues including the structure of the family, divorce, and sexuality.

Bringing things to a head was a midterm report released from last year’s Synod on the family in which more conciliatory language was used in relation to homosexuality, cohabiting couples, and allowing divorced and remarried couples to receive communion.

Language in the report was received in different ways according to the values of those doing the listening. In liberal circles, it was hailed as a sign that the Catholic Church was finally breaking down and accepting the new normal of the sexual revolution, while among the Catholic base, it was received with considerable dismay.

In fact, many received the language in the report as a potentially suicidal surrender to the forces of political correctness that have swept the world, infiltrating every institution, and thus beginning to wear away at the foundations of Western Civilization itself. It was read with considerable alarm by many who had comforted themselves with the idea that the Church, with its settled dogma and teachings of Jesus, would be immune to the movement’s secularist ideology. The wording of the report, however, seemed to indicate otherwise.

“The very disturbing midterm relatio, which I have openly said was not a relatio or report but a manifesto, served to wake up the Synod Fathers to an agenda that was at work which touches upon the truth about marriage,” warned Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, in an interview for the Wanderer.

Wasting little time following the release of the midterm report, Burke talked of pushback from more traditional elements in the Synod.

“In the period between the midterm report and the final relatio, (sub-committees) worked very diligently to try to repair the serious damage done by the midterm relatio,” said Burke, “and much progress was made.”

“We’re not giving in to the secular agenda,” Cardinal George Pell  said in an interview for the Catholic News Service. “We’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic churches in one or two countries, and going out of business.”

Even with such assurances, the concerns of the faithful were hardly mollified with the news from Synod organizer Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri that Pope Francis had indeed read the midterm report before it was released to the public. That Pope Francis had read it indicated, at least, the pope’s agreement with its conciliatory message.

As a result, a resistance movement of sorts has arisen with individual groups and organizations mobilizing over the months since last October’s Synod to present a united front against the foot in the door — or the camel’s nose in the tent (pick your cliché) — that could end up some day resulting in wholesale acceptance of the new status quo.

Among such outfits is the Italian based organization Filiale Supplica, an umbrella group composed of pro-family groups and lay Catholic leaders that has gathered tens of thousands of signatures (including that of former U.S. presidential candidate Rick Santorum) for a petition addressed to the pope urging him to reaffirm “categorically the Catholic teaching that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics cannot receive holy Communion and that homosexual unions are contrary to divine and natural laws.”

Other groups that have voiced similar concerns include the Voice of the Family and the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

In addition to such grassroots efforts to influence the direction of the conversation, there have also been a number of insiders including Burke, such as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller; prefect for Divine Worship, Cardinal Robert Sarah; and Cardinal George Pell, who have openly criticized any watering down of the Church’s teachings fearing a “domino effect” that would eventually lead to the often unrecognizably Christian doctrines of many mainline Protestant churches.

“The secret for all Catholic vitality is fidelity to the teachings of Christ and to the tradition of the church,” said Pell, a member of the Council of Cardinals that advises Pope Francis on church governance.

“The Church cannot change her teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the grave sinfulness of sexual relations outside the matrimonial union and the grave sinfulness of homosexual acts,” said Burke. “The laity needs to nourish themselves with the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium on marriage, with the teaching that is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They must also give witness to it in their everyday dealings, not only with other Catholics but with people who are not of the Catholic Faith, to make it clear that the Church is not changing her teaching; indeed, that she cannot.”

On the other hand, Cardinal Walter Kasper, emeritus president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, dismissed the concerns of conservatives as tantamount to believing that the foundation of the Church was built on sand and could collapse like a house of cards if any of its tenets were challenged.

“I think they fear a domino effect, if you change one point all would collapse,” surmised Kasper in an interview for America magazine. “That’s their fear. This is all linked to ideology, an ideological understanding of the Gospel that the Gospel is like a penal code.”

Fueling the fears of many, Kasper himself had been asked by the pope to speak before the College of Cardinals early in 2014 and to raise these very topics.

That speech exposed a clear divide among Church leaders on hot-button social issues: those who sought to make peace with the new moral relativism and those who believed any deviation from the teachings of Christ would inevitably lead down the road to error and irrelevance.

One doesn’t have to look far for examples of such a fate. Just look to the many Protestant churches, even those of fundamentalist or evangelical persuasions. Denial of the Eucharist, female ordination, same-sex marriages, divorce and remarriage — to name a few of the deviations from the original Catholic brand of Christianity — have forced many conscientious Christians to spend less and less time as members with any single congregation and instead to “church hop,” hoping to find that church that still adheres uncategorically to Jesus’ teachings.

Such churches are getting harder and harder to find. And as some believe, impossible to find, especially should the Catholic Church loosen its faithfulness to the depository of tradition and the teachings of Christ. If that happens, human beings would be cast upon a sea of uncertainty without assurance that what they believe is not only in fact true, but the manner in which God wants them to live their lives — lives that should be lived in preparation for spending eternity with Him.

Read bullet | 18 Comments »

VIDEO: Camille Paglia Dubs Contemporary Feminists ‘Stalinists, Fascists’

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Camille Paglia sits with Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie to discuss the failings of contemporary feminism, specifically in relation to the contemporary feminist obsession with gender politics which Paglia dubs “gender myopia.” Tagging the culture’s current obsession with viewing the world through the lenses of “race, class and gender” (what Gillespie titles “the holy trinity”) as a “distortion of the 1960s,” Paglia, a self-described atheist, explains that “Marxism is not sufficient as a metaphysical system for explaining the cosmos.”

The powerful dialogue should be required viewing for all college freshmen and women, of course. A general in the culture wars, Paglia continues to be the only academic unafraid to conquer Marxist ideology and its subsequent theoretical fields on its own turf.

Read bullet | 21 Comments »

Presbyterians Approve Gay Marriage: Forward-Looking or Surrender to a Culture Gone Wild?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Michael van der Galien

shutterstock_1916794

The Presbyterian Church has once again confirmed its progressive reputation:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved redefining marriage in the church constitution Tuesday to include a “commitment between two people,” becoming the largest Protestant group to formally recognize gay marriage as Christian and allow same-sex weddings in every congregation.

Is this a sign that Presbyterians are forward-looking and profoundly modern, or are they selling out? Opinion polls show that 55 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. No church can survive when it ignores the wishes and ideas of the culture at large. Gay marriage is going to be legalized nationwide eventually, as the culture is moving in that direction. Might as well get on board now rather than wait and be accused of being out of touch.

On the other hand, many devoted Christians rightfully argue that the Bible clearly states that a marriage is an arrangement between a man and a woman. They’ll claim they’ve got Genesis to back them up if they believe in a literal interpretation of Christianity’s holy book:

Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

What do you think? Are the Presbyterians right and should other churches follow suit, or are they selling out their religion in a desperate attempt to stay relevant in today’s society?

******

image illustration via shutterstock / 

Read bullet | 42 Comments »

VIDEO: How Feminism Becomes a Religion on College Campuses

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Melissa McGrath, an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, was invited to participate in her college’s TEDx Talk, because, although not in possession of a doctorate, McGrath has  “a valid story to tell, and (she thinks) that will shine through.” Her thesis: Feminism proffers salvation.

Her “valid story” plays like a tent-revival testimonial about how feminist theory, reinforced by college professors, informed her that it was not her fault that she was sexually assaulted on campus. Avoiding the details of her assault, McGrath instead focuses on feminist liturgy as a method for teaching “intersectionality” that is, how the human race is tied together in a Marxist state of oppressor and oppressed.

Pulling all the approved contemporary feminist buzzwords from “white privilege” to “rape culture” McGrath weaves the kind of soap box narrative trademarked by the best faith-based snake oil salesmen (and women) of the 20th century. Her’s is a speech proving that feminism isn’t just ideology, but idolatry; a religion whose places of worship are in university classrooms, whose holy texts are available at your nearest bookstore, and whose icons live on “Pinterest boards” and social media outlets.

Cover image “Female Jesus” by Juno.

Read bullet | 7 Comments »

How & Why Islam Wages War Against ‘Idolatry’

Monday, March 16th, 2015 - by Robert Spencer

The Islamic State has now destroyed numerous ancient Assyrian artifacts in the Mosul museum and bulldozed the 3,300-year-old city of Nimrud and the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra. It also recently blew up a tenth-century Chaldean Catholic church north of Mosul.

The world has recoiled in horror at this new confirmation of the Muslim group’s gleeful contempt for civilization and embrace of barbarism, and the “this has nothing to do with Islam” industry has cranked into high gear to reassure the public yet again that nothing more than complacency is required in the face of this, but once again, the Islamic State is simply acting in accord with its stated principles.

Many have scoffed at the Islamic State’s claim that they’re simply removing temptations to idolatry. Who, after all, would be tempted to worship a 3,000-year-old Assyrian statue of a horse? But there is more to the Islamic State’s actions than just that. Besides removing supposed temptations to idolatry, Islamic jihadists want to ruin the artifacts of non-Muslim civilizations because doing so testifies to the truth of Islam, as the Qur’an suggests that ruins are a sign of Allah’s punishment of those who rejected his truth:

Many were the Ways of Life that have passed away before you: travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who rejected Truth. (Qur’an 3:137)

This is one of the foundations of the Islamic idea that pre-Islamic civilizations, and non-Islamic civilizations, are all jahiliyya — the society of unbelievers, which is worthless. Consequently, any art, literature, or architecture that any non-Islamic culture produces has no value whatsoever: it is all simply a manifestation of that ignorance and barbarism.

V. S. Naipaul encountered this attitude in his travels through Muslim countries. For many Muslims, he observed in Among the Believers, “The time before Islam is a time of blackness: that is part of Muslim theology. History has to serve theology.” Obviously this cuts against the idea of tourism of ancient sites and non-Muslim religious installations. Naipaul recounted that some Pakistani Muslims, far from valuing the nation’s renowned archaeological site at Mohenjo Daro, saw its ruins as a teaching opportunity for Islam, recommending that Qur’an 3:137 be posted there as a teaching tool.

The same impulse now threatens the Sphinx and the Pyramids. Kuwaiti Muslim cleric Ibrahim Al Kandari declared:

The fact that early Muslims who were among prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering the Egyptian soil, does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now.

And Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s caliph Ibrahim, said destruction of the Sphinx and the Pyramids was a “religious duty.”

If these monuments are destroyed, it is highly likely that in a few centuries (or sooner), Muslims in Egypt will be blaming the infidel for their destruction. This is what has happened with the Sphinx’s nose, which was destroyed not by Napoleon’s troops in target practice (as goes the common story), but by the Muslim precursors of the Islamic State. In a rare moment of candor, Russia Today noted last Monday:

Attacks on the Sphinx date back centuries. Despite many legends surrounding the monument’s missing nose – with harm from Napoleon’s cannon being among the most popular myths – historians believe it was actually destroyed by Sufi Muslim Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr in the 14th century, after he learned that some peasants worshipped the Sphinx.

Many of the incidents of Muslim destruction of artifacts are ascribed to infidels, in keeping with the general tendency of Islamic supremacists to blame everyone but themselves for their own wrongdoing. In Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History, Robert D. Kaplan repeats uncritically what he probably heard from local Muslims: that the icons in the local churches had their eyes scraped off because the superstitious local Christians had taken them to mix in health potions.

It is, however, virtually inconceivable that Orthodox believers, even the most ignorant and superstitious, would desecrate icons in this way. It is much more likely that the icons had no eyes because Islamic authorities consider that it is sufficient to destroy the representation of the face in order to ruin the image as a representation of the human form. And that’s why the nose of the Sphinx was gone long before Napoleon’s troops ever had target practice.

There are men, and there are destroyers. The Judeo-Christian West has always loved life and creativity. By contrast, these Muslims, acting on principles of Islam, are the enemies of life and creativity; they love only death and destruction. As many Islamic jihadists have boasted, “We will win because we love death more than they love life.”

That they love death is obvious; we can all take hope, however, from the fact that their claim that destruction and evil will ultimately triumph completely over creation and civilization is, at best, dubious.

****

See also from PJ Lifestyle by Spencer Klavan: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction

Read bullet | 18 Comments »