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The Normal Way Godless Men Treat Women

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for Part 1

Lisa De Pasquale's memoir is extraordinary... Time to take a break to give #maura #siberianhusky her morning run but I'm eager to finish ASAP.

From Sunday at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg responded to my opening in this series with “Religion, Politics & Screaming at the Internet” and concluded thoughtfully:

Why aren’t these women loving these men the way they ought to be loving themselves, with respect and honor?

Perhaps that question is the answer to the many you pose about righteousness in America’s religious and political spheres. When we succumb to idols of any kind we become altruistic in our worship, disrespecting ourselves as much as those with whom we interact. Walter and I do agree on the concept that faith is, first and foremost, a relationship with God that is as mutually satisfying as a marriage. When we lose that context to religious, political, or pop culture opinion, we are forced to become ascetics, because no matter how hard you believe, nor how ardently you defend, you will never win the full favor, attention, or love of the idol you worship. It is a thing, an idea, a person so far removed from you that you are forced to be nothing more than its conquered slave. That is the way Ryan the Preacher treated Lisa, and she responded the way any slave would: “…all I wanted was to be wanted.”

An excerpt from page 23:

"He hit me so hard I actually saw stars." - Lisa De Pasquale, in an excerpt from page 23 of Finding Mr. Righteous on her alcoholic, atheist boyfriend Chris...

Dear Lisa and Susan,

I think among the many accomplishments of Finding Mr. Righteous is its portrayal of Chris the Atheist. The passage from page 23 above highlights a number of intertwined phenomena – a sadomasochistic sexual nature, atheist theology, an inability to control emotions, substance abuse, idolizing women’s bodies, and so often the critical piece at root, the lack of a father figure and the corresponding failure to grow up in a nuclear family. In another passage from the book Chris’s destructive tendencies are made more explicit as he discusses the self-inflicted scars on his arms.

Reading these passages reminded me of my own secular dating time during my undergraduate years – a period I don’t like to dredge out from the memory banks all that often because it’s just still too shameful and embarrassing. The experience from this passage isn’t that uncommon and it shouldn’t necessarily be understood as exclusively a men’s issue. (I certainly don’t believe that men are just innately violent.) It goes the other way too. I dated a number of secular, progressive, and feminist women in college who in some ways resembled Chris. Gender isn’t the issue — beliefs, ideology, and the experiences underlying them are what make people hurt one another.

Some of the women I dated would shift the foreplay into one disturbing realm or another, either incorporating pain and degradation into how they treated me or requesting I act that way toward them. Never was it just “for fun” or “to be kinky” or to “spice things up”– always behind these outward expressions some inner emotional wounds ached, unhealed by a spiritual practice.

Or rather, as it turns out, the sex and the pain was their substitute for a religion. Throughout the story of Chris we see one attempt after another to find something to distract from the unresolved demons inside him. The twin cocktail of sex and violence at the same time, heated up by alcohol and Dionysian emotion, is among the most effective throughout history for annihilating the pain of being an individual. There’s a name for this practice beyond just “atheism” and in my research I think Camille Paglia defines it best in her many books of essays, criticism, and literary analysis, summarized in the lead essay in Vamps and Tramps: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality. From page 45:

“Men who kill the women they love have reverted to Pagan cult. She whom a man cannot live without had become a goddess, an avatar of his half-divinized, half-demonized mother, a magic fountain of cosmic creativity.”

"Men who kill the women they love have reverted to #Pagan cult. She whom a man cannot live without had become a goddess, an avatar of his half-divinized, half-demonized mother, a #magic fountain of #cosmic creativity." - Camille Paglia, page 45 of Vamps and Tramps, "No Law in the Arena" essay.

So the position I take: Chris was just being a normal, secular teenage boy, the way mother nature created him. This is just how nature operates…

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How the Ft. Hood Massacre Could’ve Been Prevented

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

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The Following has been excerpted from Arab Winter Comes to America: The Truth About the War We’re In by New York Times Best-Selling author Robert Spencer:

During his trial, prosecutors showed that several days before his attack, and even just a few hours before he started shooting, Hasan searched the internet for “jihad” and specifically for articles about Islamic jihadists and Muslim clerics calling for jihad attacks on Americans.

Yet despite these abundant indications that Hasan was engaged in act of Islamic jihad akin to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, albeit on a smaller scale, the Defense Department has classified Hasan’s shootings not as a terrorist act, but as “workplace violence.”

Hasan himself contradicted this classification at his trial, when he pointedly registered his agreement with the prosecution’s contention that, unlike some others who had opened fire in public places, he hadn’t just suddenly snapped or been overcome by an overwhelming paroxysm of rage: “I would like to agree with the prosecution that it wasn’t done under the heat of sudden passion. There was adequate provocation, that these were deploying soldiers that were going to engage in an illegal war.”

Nonetheless, the U.S. government has so far continued to ignore repeated requests from the victims’ families to reclassify the killings and make the victims eligible for the Purple Heart and benefits that are normally accorded to combatants killed or injured in the line of duty.

The disconnect from obvious reality has grown ever wider. The Obama administration’s official unwillingness to face the full reality of the Islamic jihad is all-pervasive, affecting both foreign and domestic policy. Echoed in the mainstream media, it has contributed to an atmosphere in which, during Barack Obama’s second term, Americans are arguably less safe and less informed about the threat they face than ever before. Those who are informed about the threat, or who find themselves confronted by it in one form or another, are often intimidated into silence by the politically correct backlash that is sure to come against them if they dare to speak out.

Nidal Hasan’s own coworkers during his tenure as an army psychiatrist were subject to that intimidation, and their choices illustrate show how deadly effective it is. Although Hasan’s jihadist tendencies were well known, clearly fear that they would be accused of “Islamophobia” prevented his army superiors from acting upon signs of his incipient jihadist tendencies. Instead, they kept promoting him. The AP reported in January 2010 that “a Defense Department review of the shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, has found the doctors overseeing Maj. Nidal Hasan’s medical training repeatedly voiced concerns over his strident views on Islam and his inappropriate behavior, yet continued to give him positive performance evaluations that kept him moving through the ranks.”

And so Hasan rose through army ranks and did so with extraordinarily positive recommendations, even as he justified suicide bombing and spouted hatred for America while wearing its uniform. In an evaluation dated March 13, 2009, just short of eight months before his jihad attack, Hasan’s superiors wrote that he displayed “outstanding moral integrity” and praised his project topic for his master’s of public health degree: “the impact of beliefs and culture on views regarding military service during the Global War on Terror.” They even praised him specifically as a Muslim, in passages that their authors must have remembered with stinging regret after his jihad murders: one said that he should be put into a position “that allows others to learn from his perspectives” and declared that his “unique insights into the dimensions of Islam” and his “moral reasoning” could be of “great potential interest and strategic importance to the U.S. Army.” 

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British PM David Cameron Emphasizes the Importance of Christianity in Society

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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British Prime Minister David Cameron used his Easter message to talk about the significance of the holiday as he highlighted the role of Christianity in Britain and the plight of Christians in countries where they are persecuted.

He said the country should reflect on what Christianity brings to Britain. “All over the UK, every day, there are countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ,” Cameron said. “The heart of Christianity is to ‘love thy neighbour’ and millions do really live that out.” He mentioned prison ministries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters run by churches. He said he saw the same “spirit” during recent storm in his country. “They proved, yet again, that people’s faith motivates them to do good deeds,” he said.

Cameron also reflected on the plight of the persecuted church. “And as we celebrate Easter, let’s also think of those who are unable to do so, the Christians around the world who are ostracised, abused – even murdered – simply for the faith they follow,” Cameron said. “Religious freedom is an absolute, fundamental human right.”

He added that “Britain is committed to protecting and promoting that right, by standing up for Christians and other minorities, at home and abroad. Our hearts go out to them, especially at this special time of year” [emphasis added].

Cameron expounded on his Easter message in an article for the Anglican magazine, Church Times. Acknowledging that he is “not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith,” Cameron disagreed with those who said faith should not be discussed in this “secular age.” He said, “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”

Cameron focused on morality and social action, saying he is “not one for doctrinal purity.” But he said that people who advocate secular neutrality “fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code,” Cameron said.

Despite the obvious benefits, a nation dedicated to good works will not pull Christianity back from the brink of extinction in the UK. Only authentic, committed faith can do that. But a government that recognizes the role of faith in society can allow churches to organically flourish by eliminating government interference and discouraging cultural marginalization. Whether or not Cameron is a man of true faith, he seems to recognize the need for Christianity to return to the United Kingdom.

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Is Heaven Is for Real… Real?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

The much-anticipated movie ‘Heaven is for Real’ is set to open in movie theaters on Wednesday. The book tells the story of Colton Burpo, a little boy who claimed he visited heaven during a near-death experience.

“Heaven tourism” books have proliferated Christian best-seller lists in recent years, but are the accounts authentic, fictional, based on hallucinations, or something else? Moreover, do they comport with the Bible’s descriptions of heaven and the afterlife?

Pastor and author David Platt says no.

He describes ’Heaven is for Real’ as “A fanciful account of a four-year-old boy who talks about how he went to heaven and got a halo and wings, but he didn’t like them because they were too small. He claims that he sat on Jesus’ lap while angels sang to him,” Platt said. “He even met the Holy Spirit, whom he describes as ‘kind of blue.’

Platt said that “There is money to be made in peddling fiction about the afterlife as non-fiction in the Christian publishing world today” and “The whole premise behind every single one of these books is contrary to everything God’s word says about heaven,” including their “relentless self-focus.”

According to Platt, “Scripture definitely says that people do not go to heaven and come back. ‘Who has ascended to heaven and come down?’ (Proverbs 30:4). Answer: ‘No one has ascended into heaven except he who has descended from heaven — the Son of Man’” (John 3:13).

“Four biblical authors had visions about heaven and wrote about what they saw: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and John,” Platt said. “All of them were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from dead in the Old Testament or the New Testament ever wrote down what he or she experienced in heaven, including Lazarus, who had a lot of time in a grave —  four days.”

But all of the biblical authors agree perfectly: “Their visions are all fixated on the glory of God which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness.” Platt said that notably missing from all the biblical accounts are “the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller list.”

He said we need to “minimize the thoughts of man and magnify, trust — let’s bank our lives and our understanding of the future on — the truth of God.” He said that rather than relying on traditions, we should depend on the word of God. “There’s too much at stake in our lives and others’ lives for that.”

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Turncoat Feminists

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
The real problems facing American feminists today.

The real problems facing American feminists today.

Commentary has printed some brilliant feminist insights by Jonathan S. Tobin on Brandeis University’s refusal to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

We have heard a great deal in the last couple of years from liberals about a “war on women” that was supposedly being waged by American conservatives. That meme played a crucial part in President Obama’s reelection and Democrats hope to repeat that success in this year’s midterms. Liberals have tried to mobilize American women to go to the polls to register outrage over the debate about forcing employers to pay for free contraception, a Paycheck Fairness Act that is more of a gift to trial lawyers than women, and attempts to limit abortions after 20 weeks. These are issues on which reasonable people may disagree, but what most liberals seem to have missed is the fact that there is a real war on women that is being waged elsewhere around the globe where Islamist forces are brutalizing and oppressing women in ways that make these Democratic talking points look trivial. It is that point that Hirsi Ali is trying to make in her public appearances.

But instead of rising in support of Hirsi Ali’s efforts to draw attention to these outrages, leading American feminists are silent. The only voices we’re hearing from the left are from men who are determined to justify Brandeis.

I recently commented on the nastiness that occurs when political passion jumps the shark into idol-worshiping territory. One need look no further for evidence as to how ugly and narrow-minded political idol worshipers can get than the quotes Tobin pulls from left-wing sources hellbent on defending Brandeis’s decision. A search of both Jezebel  and Bitch Magazine websites turned up zip on the controversy, once again proving the theory that feminism really is all about white, upper class “rich” chicks and their pop culture fanaticism.

Hirsi Ali wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women’s and girls’ basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

The fact that the mainstream feminist movement has no use for Hirsi Ali’s brave fight for women’s rights should come as no surprise. Her global campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and abuse of women within radical Islam is so far out of the realm of #FirstWorldProblem Feminism that it doesn’t even ping on their radar. Which is precisely why feminism is a joke and women continue to be the laughingstock whipping boys of Democrat men who keep them well oiled and distracted during election season before shoving them back under Oval Office desks where they belong. What can I say except submission sells.

Perhaps Muslim women aren’t the only ones who are being targeted and abused because of their gender after all.

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4 Things to Get Liberated From This Passover

Monday, April 14th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

Still-life with wine and matzoh (jewish passover bread)

Passover, which began Monday at sundown and lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora, is one of the major, constitutive holidays of the Jewish people. It commemorates the Jews’ exodus from slavery in Egypt 3300 years ago, which led to the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and an arduous 40-year trek to the Promised Land.

The basic instructions for Passover are laid down by God in Exodus 12:

And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever….

And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.

The “feast” is the Passover seder practiced by Jews all over the world to this day; the “unleavened bread” is the matza eaten at the seder and all throughout Passover by observant Jews. Passover is a joyous holiday, and in our era it has the added spice of the return to the Promised Land and the rise of a free and independent Jewish state.

Passover coincides this year with a dramatic political event—the crisis and possible demise of yet another Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” this one shepherded earnestly, passionately, and futilely by U.S. secretary of state John Kerry. We are now at a juncture that offers two options: to remain enslaved to the same flawed assumptions that lead again and again to failure; or to finally get liberated from them and reach a Promised Land of understanding and rational policy.

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10 Things You Need to Know About the Blood Moons That Begin on Monday

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Megachurch pastor, televangelist and author John Hagee has warned of a “world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.” He believes that the series of lunar eclipses that will occur between now and then are predictive of major catastrophic historical events. The first “blood moon” will make its appearance on April 15. “There’s a sense in the world that things are changing and God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way,” Hagee told CBN earlier this year. “I believe that in these next two years we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world,” he predicted.

That’s a rather unsettling prediction, one that is causing a lot of buzz among Christians and non-Christians alike.

What is a blood moon and should you be worried? Here are some facts:

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Religion, Politics & Screaming at the Internet

Sunday, April 13th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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David Swindle has entered the ongoing  discussion on altruism, religion and politics here at PJLifestyle. In doing so, he’s issued a number of great questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Jumping back in, I’d like to address them one by one, beginning with:

Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry?

No. I’ve had a hard, sad reminder of that through some of the commentary I’ve received on a number of articles in the past few weeks. There are some wonderful, insightful people out there who I’d love to have dinner with some day. And then there’s the passionate base who has time to issue verbose rants: Contradict popular line and you can “F-off”. You know this segment of the population; they are the reason stereotypes exist. But, they also prove the point that there are people out there who worship Conservatism above all else. Ironically, they’re as abusively passionate as those “liberals” they are taught to hate.

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5 New Victories for Muslim Enemies of Free Speech

Saturday, April 12th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer
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Image via the Telegraph

Just a few weeks ago I wrote an article for PJ Lifestyle titled “5 Ways the Islamic War on Free Speech Advanced Last Week.” Since then, the Islamic supremacist enemies of the freedom of speech have racked up even more victories, in the United States as well as in Muslim countries.

5. Iran: British woman jailed for “insulting Islamic sanctities,” in danger of execution

A British-Iranian woman, Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, has spent the last five months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for writing on Facebook that Iran’s government was “too Islamic.” Arrested during a visit to Iran to visit family members, she has been charged with “insulting Islamic sanctities.” British authorities are indignant about this affront to the freedom of speech.

The British government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is “urgently” examining Nobakht’s case, but why? In Britain (and America as well) it is a de facto crime to insult Islamic sanctities. A British man, Mark Stephenson, ripped pages from a copy of the Qur’an and threw them onto the ground at a soccer match. He was arrested and recently fined £235 for doing so. If Britons must therefore pay proper Sharia-dictated respect for the Qur’an or face monetary penalties, the British government has no leg to stand on in complaining about the Iranians’ prosecution of Roya Nobakht.

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Love and Altruism Prove Opposite

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Sunday, I offered the provocative theological claim that Altruism Has No Place in Christianity. I referenced the biblical teaching of pastor and theologian John Piper, who advances a notion of Christian hedonism summed up in the declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

My colleague Susan L.M. Goldberg approached my claim with reservations. She concluded:

The question of whether or not altruism holds a place in religious life is dependent upon how one defines the structure of their faith: as a business arrangement or a personal relationship. The argument Walter poses is a good one in terms of the welfare state in America. I agree with him that socialist policies should not be promoted as altruistic acts of a benevolent big government. As far as altruism goes in relation to faith, I also agree that God prepares an individual for His purpose in their life and rewards them for their faith. I do, however, question Walter’s contextualizing our personal relationship with God into a business transaction. Before we hasten to view our personal faith in that light, we should bear in mind that the failure of the welfare state was preceded by the transformation of our houses of worship into social halls dedicated to fulfilling our own very non-altruistic needs.

Susan makes a distinction which I reject. Whether business or personal in nature, all relationships prove transactional. Certainly it is possible for people to act altruistically in their relationships. But altruism proves the exception to the transactional rule, and undermines the relational bond.

In my previous piece, I cited the example of a husband buying a bouquet of his wife’s favorite flower with money he would rather spend on something else. That’s altruism, doing something for someone else at the expense of your values. Not only would the husband harbor bitterness from his sacrifice. If his wife learned how he felt about the purchase, she would despise him for it. Why?

We have heard it said that “it’s the thought that counts” when gifts are given. What thought are we referring to? In the case of a bouquet bought for a wife, the thought might be, “I love you and want you to have this symbol of my affection far more than I want the money and time it took to acquire it.” In other words, the wife wants the husband to feel satisfied by her enjoyment of the flowers he bought. It’s transactional. Everyone is better off.

The same applies in our personal relationship to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads:

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

If God wanted altruistic worshipers, He would not care whether they were reluctant or not.

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Altruism in Religion’s Free Market

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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My colleague Walter Hudson recently concluded that altruism has no place in Christian life:

Christian giving promotes life and health. Altruism promotes starvation and death. Altruism redistributes. Christian giving transacts. Christ’s own words assure us of greater blessing in giving than receiving. Christian giving leaves us better off, not worse. Altruism therefore proves atheistic, as Piper declares. We will never give more to others than God will give to us.

Walter’s basic conclusion is capitalist in nature: A Christian should be rewarded in kind (or over and above) for giving of their money, their time, or their talent. On the face of it, his argument makes sense, especially in light of congregational membership. My Christian friends often complain about the concept of “tithing,” a Torah teaching that is grossly abused by the religious establishment. Far too often, “tithing” translates into religious leadership putting pressure on church members to “donate” up to 10% of their annual income to their church. Synagogue membership, on the other hand, is rather simple: The same flat fee is charged to everyone on a yearly basis. No weekly passing of plates, no feeling ashamed; most synagogues have provision to assist members who may not be able to meet the annual sum. Programming fees are charged for additional events, like holiday services and Hebrew school. This model best fits Walter’s description of being rewarded in kind for monies given.

In the era where religious establishments have become places to fulfill business networking and social needs, it makes sense that you’d pay a fee for the religious service as you would any other mode through which these things would be accomplished. You pay for drinks at bars, JDate and Christian Mingle memberships, and head hunters; someone’s got to pay the electric bill so the lights are on when you’re shaking hands. The only question is, where is God in all of this? If the Bible is right, and we were put on earth to walk with Him in a personal relationship, what is He getting for His services rendered? That is, besides a corrupt priesthood on both sides of the aisle, pressuring congregants for cash and willing to let God take the back seat to a business deal?

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Conservative is the New Liberal

Monday, April 7th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Michelle Goldberg over at the Nation published an excellent article on the #CancelColbert controversy arising out of what she has dubbed the “New Political Correctness”:

It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.

Radicals thrive on crisis. The crises they are generating are evidence of how truly free we are as a nation. Panicking over statuary is as #FirstWorldProblem as you can get. Yet we should not be fooled: The chaos of radicals always has a serious motive.

Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”

Whether it is in a public forum or a private business (as with last week’s case of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich) “no-platforming” is the desired outcome of the radical-induced chaos. Whether it is used against the presumed liberal (feminism) or conservative (anti-BDS) cause, the outcome is the same: a clampdown on free speech and individual expression, marketed as kind-hearted, feel-good social legislation. Orwell would not be surprised.

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Which is More Rational: Belief in God or Atheism?

Monday, April 7th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Christianity’s Contribution to Progressive Politics

Monday, April 7th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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On today’s Fightin Words podcast: Welcoming new listeners from PJ Media, we consider the effect of Christian-themed altruism on political discourse. Does acting for others require sacrificing your values?

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(14:29 minutes long; 13.9 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)

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Altruism Has No Place in Christianity

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson
Do you regard the gifts you give as loss?

Do you regard the gifts you give as loss?

“It is better to give than to receive.” How often have we heard that? The motto of the altruist, this would-be-proverb exhorts us to act for others at our expense. Among the vast culture of Christendom, altruism has been adopted as a tenant of the faith by many if not most believers. Churchgoers are encouraged to give sacrificially, which generally gets interpreted as giving until it hurts.

Yet careful examination of scripture suggests that altruism has no place in the Christian life. Consider this from pastor and theologian John Piper:

After my message to the Liberty University student body [in September of 2013], a perceptive student asked this clarifying question: So you don’t believe that altruistic acts are possible or desirable?

I asked for his definition of altruism so that I could answer what he was really asking. He said, “Doing a good deed for others with no view to any reward.” I answered: that’s right, whether or not it’s possible, I don’t think it’s desirable, because it’s not what the Bible teaches us to do; and it’s not what people experience as genuine love. Because it isn’t genuine love.

What does Piper mean by that? Consider that the phrase “it is better to give than to receive” does not actually appear in scripture. Instead, Acts 20:35 reads:

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

More blessed for who? The Contemporary English Version translates it this way. “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.” The New Life Version among others translates it another way. “We are more happy when we give than when we receive.” Christ, according to Paul, tells us we are better off helping the weak than being among the weak who require help.

That presents a far more precise application than the vague notion that “it’s better to give than to receive.” From an earthly perspective, giving requires abundance above and beyond our requirements for survival. We must have before we can give, and we must get before we can have. From a heavenly perspective, helping the weak in the name of Christ proves an act of obedient worship which draws us deeper into joyful relationship with Him. There’s nothing altruistic about that. You cannot lose upon securing an infinite value.

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Will Christianity Survive the Sexual Revolution?

Sunday, April 6th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has a thoughtful analysis of the state of Christianity in the United States as we plunge forward into our brave, new cultural revolution. He explains that historically, the Christian views of sex and marriage were good for the culture and improved the lives of slaves and women:

It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.

In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.

Dreher discusses the theories of 1960s sociologist Philip Rieff who said that cultures are defined by what they forbid. They impose moral demands in order to serve communal purposes. Rieff — an unbeliever — wrote that the sexual revolution signaled the imminent demise of Christianity as a “culturally determinative force” in the West.

Rieff, Dreher says, explained that “renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct.” He said that the West’s rapid “re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation” was a sign of the end of Christianity. According to Dreher,

In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.

In contrast, Denny Burk argues in his book, What is the Meaning of Sex?, the purposes of sex according to the Bible are consummation of marriage, procreation, the expression of love, and pleasure. But even those ends are subordinate to the “ultimate end of glorifying God.” Burk says that,

“The four subordinate ends are not discreet goods but are inseparably related to one another in the covenant of marriage, which itself exists for the glory of God. The morality of any given action, therefore, must be measured by its conformity to these ends.”

Dreher says that gay marriage is the final triumph of the 1960s Sexual Revolution and the “dethroning of Christianity.”  He rightly points out that gay marriage stands in opposition to a core concept of Christian anthropology. “In classical Christian teaching,” says Dreher,  ”the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation.” He says that Christians lost the debate about gay marriage long before most people imagined that we could go down that road, in part, because Americans had devalued the cosmological meaning of sex and marriage in the post-’60s Sexual Revolution.

Clearly, our culture has floated quite a distance downstream from the goal of “glorifying God” in all areas of life, including sex and marriage. Today’s accepted cultural norms elevate the glory of man over the glory of God.

“The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether in this new dispensation,” says Dreher. He adds that “If the faith does not recover, the historical autopsy will conclude that gay marriage was not a cause but a symptom, the sign that revealed the patient’s terminal condition.”

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5 Things You Should Know About the Latest Military Jihadist

Saturday, April 5th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

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The story was overshadowed by Wednesday’s shooting at Fort Hood, but last Monday Fox News revealed that the FBI and the U.S. military had issued an alert for a Muslim former Army recruit who was planning a “Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers.” This was more than just an eerie foreshadowing of the Wednesday shooting, although the story almost immediately got murky: on Tuesday the FBI responded to the Fox story with more or less a full denial, declaring that there was no manhunt and that the Muslim recruit named in the alert was not a threat. Nonetheless, enough details emerged to reveal some key facts:

5. Conversion to Islam can make a military man into a traitor.

The would-be Fort Hood-style jihadist was John Thomas Booker, a convert to Islam who now goes by the name Muhammad Abdullah Hassan. According to the alert that the FBI and U.S. military distributed, Hassan was,

“recruited by the U.S. Army in Kansas City, Mo., in February 2014 and was scheduled to report for basic training on April 7. But he was discharged last week, apparently after law enforcement authorities learned of his alleged plan.”

The alert didn’t make clear whether Booker was already Hassan when he was recruited into the Army, or whether he converted while in the Army, but unless he entered the Army with the intention of subverting it and killing American soldiers, he probably entered the military with at least some patriotic sentiment, all of which he lost as he learned about his new faith.

In this Hassan resembles last month’s military jihadist, Ased Abdur-Raheem, formerly Nicholas Teausant, a member of the Army National Guard who called for respect for the military uniform just three days before he was arrested, and almost a year after he wrote on Instagram,

“don’t get me wrong I despise america and want its down fall but yeah haha. Lol I been a part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”

This change may be because Islam calls for loyalty to the umma, the global Islamic community, above all other loyalties, and teaches (in the words of the twentieth-century Pakistani Islamic scholar and politician, Maulana Maududi) that non-Muslims have “absolutely no right to seize the reins of power in any part of God’s earth nor to direct the collective affairs of human beings according to their own misconceived doctrines.” If they do, “the believers would be under an obligation to do their utmost to dislodge them from political power and to make them live in subservience to the Islamic way of life.”

Such words can turn an American soldier into an America-hating jihadist.

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The Whole Idea of Noah is Wrong

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan
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I’ve been on the road and haven’t had a chance to see Noah, the 130-million dollar Darren Aronofsky biblical blockbuster that opened well, but not brilliantly, at the box office last weekend. But while I can have nothing to say about the content of the movie, I’ve been interested to see three of my friends from three different faiths wrestle with the film — a film whose atheist director declared it would be “the least biblical film ever made.”

Ben Shapiro is a devout Jew, and I’ve heard him speak with real and revealing insight into Torah — something that’s not all that common. In a genuinely sharp essay at Truth Revolt, he took the film apart as a “perversely pagan mess” that replaced God with Gaia to deliver a muddled environmentalist message. You can read the whole excellent thing here, but one point struck me particularly:

It is one thing for a movie adaptation to stray from the source material. Adding characters or scenes, crafting details that vary from the strict text – all of it is in bounds when it comes to adaptations. Critics of Noah who have focused on the extra-Biblical magic of Methuselah or the lack of textual support for instantaneously-growing forests are off-base.

The far deeper problem is when an adaptation perverts the message of the source material. If the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird had turned Tom Robinson into a villain and Mr. Ewell into a hero, that would rightly have been seen as an undermining of the original work. The same is true of the Biblical story of Noah and the movie version of that same story. It isn’t merely that Aronofsky gets the story wrong. That would be forgiveable. It’s that Aronofsky deliberately destroys the foundational principles undergirding the Bible, and uses Biblically-inspired story to do it.

The mighty John Nolte of Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, a Catholic, was much kinder to the movie itself — and in fact, feared that the film’s high quality as an entertainment made it an excellent vehicle for selling a wholly dishonest view of the Bible story:

My concern is that with “Noah,” Hollywood has cracked the code on how to undermine the Judeo/Christian faith while making a profit with the help of some duped Christian “thought leaders”: Use the awesome propaganda power of the motion picture to lead people away from God by telling them the Judeo-Christian faith is something it is not.

In the case of “Noah,” [because of strong box office] Satan is a happy camper… : Over the last ten days, throughout the world, millions have been told the dark lie that Christianity, or any religion based on the Old Testament, has a foundation seeped in environmental extremism and has nothing to do with leading a moral and charitable life as defined by the Ten Commandments and Christ’s 11th Commandment.

Finally, up-and-coming culture critic R.J. Moeller, an evangelical, took a man-of-reason approach over at Acculturated. Writing an open letter to Aronofsky, he expressed admiration for the filmmaker’s work both here and elsewhere.

What I’d like to say to you in closing is this: thank you for making this movie. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I was encouraged to see your interpretation of the story of Noah and the existential themes and questions that emanate from it. Even if we disagree on the lessons we’re supposed to learn from Noah’s life and God’s actions, I appreciate your willingness to enter the “How can a good God allow bad things to happen?” debate.

Your film is going to facilitate important conversations among friends, family members and co-workers around the nation. I hope Hollywood takes note of the box office enthusiasm surrounding this movie. I also hope that those Christians who did not care for Noah are incentivized to be a part of the long-term solution (as far as the production of God-honoring, high-quality projects are concerned).

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A Demon’s Heart: Can Evil Incarnate Ever Find Salvation?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Liberty Island
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Image via Liberty Island

Abbey Clarke is Liberty Island’s own (and so far only) Editorial Assistant, as well as a frequent contributor to SparkNotes. A graduate of Kings College, she lives and works (for now) just outside of New York City.

1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

I love Robin McKinley (The Blue Sword is my favorite of hers), Anne McCaffrey (but only the first two books of her Harper Hall trilogy), C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia and Till We Have Faces especially), Tolkien, Orson Scott Card, Shannon Hale, Robert Heinlein, Tamora Pierce, and Brandon Sanderson. I also still like a lot of YA (appropriate, as I am both young and an adult), even those of dubious literary quality. I enjoyed The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, and am currently in the middle of The Lunar Chronicles, a series of books that reinvent fairy tales in a sci fi setting. Just imagine Cinderella as a cyborg. For movies, I am partial to rom-coms: 27 Dresses, Legally Blond, Clueless, etc. They are guilty pleasures, but pleasures nonetheless. I tend to gravitate more toward TV now, with favorites including Buffy, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, Community, and New Girl. For intellectual influences, I’ll be cliched and claim the Bible.

2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?

I’m a Christian first, but my highest goal in writing is to craft a good story. Politically, I lean conservative.

3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?

I can’t think of a thinker who has shaped me politically. I’ve always hated talk radio–it hurts my ears, and I like stories more than news.

4. Where are you from/currently reside?

I’m from a small town in Maine called Greene Village. It boasts one stoplight that it does not quite need.

5. Where they’re located physically?

New York City area, but relocating to Indiana very soon.

6.  What are your writing goals?

I am stewing on an idea for a novel that my story A Demon’s Heart (which you can read over at Liberty Island) serves as a sort of prequel or prelude to. One of my goals is to iron out the plot of that story before I dive into a full draft. Another goal is to write a small, sad, complicated little story that I have in my head about cryogenic sleep and a girl with wings.

7. Where can people find/follow you online?

They can follow me on Twitter at @abbeybookaholic.

Clarke,-Abbey

8. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

Probably playing Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, I play a character named Ciara (who is also on Twitter at @CiaraGoesStab) on a Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition podcast called Knife Errant. I tend to play Chaotic Neutral halfling rogues who just want to stab things. I have no idea where those violent thoughts come from.

I also enjoy mixing drinks and crocheting, though I haven’t tried doing both together.

An Excerpt from “A Demon’s Heart

It was nighttime when I first stepped through a portal onto the cold dewy grass of your world. I gazed up for my first look at the stars and a sliver of the waning moon, my eyes squinting in the weak light. Some of you call my world Hell, for it is both fiery and dark, and at that moment those were the brightest lights I had ever seen.

I found an isolated village nestled next to an old forest and settled in for some amusement. Every night for a couple of weeks I would slaughter a half-dozen livestock and their shepherds, and artfully arrange the remains in front of doorways, in the latrine pits, in the pails for drinking water, and in the town square. Sometimes I turned the bodies inside out, or made them as lifelike as anything until they were touched and their skin sloughed off, or pieced together bits of different animals into one. The villagers set up guards at night, so I worked the same artistry on the guards.

Most of them left the village after that. So I moved on to another village and did the same thing. I repeated this cycle a few times. I was eager to outdo all my brothers before me, and I became enamored of the terror I engendered.

One full-mooned night, some villagers had tied a young girl to a pole in the middle of the town square. The village was musty with the thick silence of humans awake and mute, lying in their beds quiet as they could, straining their ears to listen as I walked toward the girl, knife in hand.

She was wearing a white shift, and trembling slightly at the knees. She was young enough to still have spots, perhaps fourteen or fifteen years. Her eyes fixed on me as I approached, taking in my face that was almost human, staring at my blue-black skin and the small horns protruding from my hair. I smiled, revealing my sharp, unnaturally white teeth.

I came within a pace of her and stared down. She was a head and a half shorter than I was. I used my knife to flip a chunk of her hair off her shoulder.

She looked up at me and bared her teeth in a sneer. I cocked my head, noticed a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye, and turned to look.

The girl pulled a wicked knife from behind her skirt and plunged it into my chest with a twist. “How like you that, devil?” she whispered. Surprised, I was unresisting when she savagely kicked my legs out from under me, thudding me to the ground on my back and knocking the wind from my lungs. She kept hold of the knife and came down on top of me, digging the blade deeper into my torso. I shrieked in pain and brought my hands up to throttle her.

Strong hands grasped my forearms. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a robed and tonsured monk struggling to hold my left arm, and I could feel his brother on my right. But they’d forgotten to close my mouth, so I stoked the fires in my belly and breathed a powerful blast of flame that burned the girl’s face and shoulder and knocked her off me. As I was still a young demon, this effort took much of my energies, and I slumped momentarily.

The men took advantage of that moment, and I was losing strength with the dagger still lodged next to my heart. Though I continued to struggle and bite, they hoisted me up on my knees and bound me with chains to the pole that the girl had been tied to. The first monk grabbed my black hair and pulled back my head.

“Death is too good for you, demon,” he said, and spat on my face. “That’s why we aren’t going to give it to you.”

The second monk jerked the knife down to cut a vertical slice across my chest. I hissed through my teeth and strained to spit a measly gust of flame at him. He turned his head to avoid it as if I were a mere nuisance.

The girl staggered to her feet and knelt in front of me, beside the second monk. “Let me do it,” she said. The monk looked ready to argue, but after taking in her badly burned, yet resolute face, he wordlessly handed her the knife.

The first monk pulled my head back up, so I could only feel, not see, the girl continuing to slice a circle in my chest. With horror, I realized what was being done to me, and I strained against my bonds. The girl deftly finished carving around my heart and reached into my chest, grasping the black, beating organ. My hand reached up as far as I could stretch my chains. The manacles were beginning to warp. In a few moments, my hand would have been free.

“By God, I damn you,” the girl whispered. She pulled, and my heart came out in her hand.

I felt weak, as fragile as a piece of straw. But I wasn’t dead. I wasn’t even bleeding much, though a few black bubbles popped and ran down my chest.

“It worked,” one of the men said in wonderment.

The girl suddenly slumped and was caught by the monk closer to her.

The other, his hand still grasping my hair, turned my face toward his.

“You’re a peculiar beast,” he said, peering down at me. “I know of no other animal who survives with its heart outside of its body. This, more than anything else, is what marks you as a creature of hell.” With his free hand, he crossed himself. “Christ be with us,” he said. Then he struck my head until my world went dark.

Continue Reading at Liberty Island 

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Are There ‘Moderate’ Muslims? How about ‘Moderate’ Jews and Christians?

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 - by David P. Goldman
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Via Wikimedia

As my friend Daniel Pipes wrote some days ago at National Review, the Middle East Forum is debating whether one can speak meaningfully of “moderate Muslims,” with Dr. Pipes defending the affirmative and Raymond Ibrahim the negative thesis. I respect both Pipes and Ibrahim, but I am not satisfied with the content of the debate. The first issue to be settled is what moderation might mean in the case of adherence to a religion, which is after all not a list of positions but an existential stance towards life. One can speak of a moderate Communist (e.g. Gorbachev) or moderate conservatives, but not quite as simply about moderate faith. Below is an essay I published on the subject in Asia Times in 2006 that attempts to set a theological context for the question.

The West in an Afghan mirror
By Spengler

Death everywhere and always is the penalty for apostasy, in Islam and every other faith. It cannot be otherwise, for faith is life and its abandonment is death. Americans should remove the beam from their own eye as they contemplate the gallows in the eye of the Muslims. Philistine hypocrisy pervades Western denunciations of the Afghan courts, which were threatening to hang Christian convert Abdul Rahman until the case was dropped on Monday.

Afghanistan, to be sure, is a tribal society whose encounter with the modern world inevitably will be a train wreck. The trouble is

that the West has apostatized, and is killing itself. There turned out to be hope for Rahman, but there is none for Latvia or Ukraine, and little enough for Germany or Spain. That said, I wish to make clear that I found the persecution of Rahman deplorable.

The practice of killing heretics has nothing to do with what differentiates Islam from Christianity or Judaism. St Thomas Aquinas defended not just the execution of individual heretics but also the mass extermination of heretical populations in the 12th-century Albigensian Crusades. For this he was defended by the Catholic philosopher Michael Novak, author of learned books about the faith of the United States of America’s founding fathers (see Muslim anguish and Western hypocrisy,  November 23, 2004).

Western religions today inflict symbolic rather than physical death. One’s local priest does not like to preach such things from his post-modern pulpit, but the Catholic Church prescribes eternal hellfire for those who come into communion with Christ and then reject him. Observant Jews hold a funeral for an apostate child who is spiritually dead to them (retroactive abortions not being permitted).

The last heretic hanged by the Catholic Church was a Spanish schoolteacher accused of Deist (shall we call that “moderate Christian”?) views in Valencia as recently as 1826. Without Napoleon Bonaparte and the humiliation of the Church by the German and Italian nationalist movements, who knows when the killing of heretics would have stopped?

“Where are the moderate Muslims?” sigh the self-appointed Sybils of the Western media. Faith is life. What does it mean to be moderately alive? Find the “moderate Christians” and the “moderate Jews”, and you will have the answer. “Moderate Christians” such as Episcopalian priests or Anglican vicars are becoming redundant as their congregations migrate to red-blooded evangelical denominations or give up religion altogether. “Moderate Jews” are mainly secular and tend to intermarry. There really is no such thing as a “moderate” Christian; there simply are Christians, and soon-to-be-ex-Christians. The secular establishment has awoken with sheer panic to this fact at last. In response we have such diatribes such as Kevin Phillips’ new book American Theocracy, an amalgam of misunderstandings, myths and calumnies about the so-called religious right. [1]

The tragedy of Abdul Rahman also is the tragedy of Western religion. Islam differs radically from Christianity, in that the Christian god is a lover who demands love in return, whereas the Muslim god is a sovereign who demands the fulfillment of duty. Christian prayer is communion, an act of love incomprehensible to Muslims; Muslim worship is an act of submission, the repetition of a few lines of text to accompany physical expression of self-subjugation to the sovereign. The People of Christ are pilgrims en route to the next world; the People of Allah are soldiers in this one. Contrary to all the ink spilled and trees murdered to produce the tomes of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito, Christianity and Islam call forth different peoples to serve different gods for different reasons.

But the fact that Christianity and Islam educe different peoples for different gods should not obscure that one cannot be either Christian or Muslim without belonging to a People of God in flesh as well as spirit. Christianity demands that the gentile, whose very origin is redolent of death, and whose heathen nature is sinful, undergo a new birth to join God’s people. Whether this second birth occurs at the baptismal font for a Catholic infant or at the river for an evangelical adult is another matter. The Christian’s rebirth is also a vicarious death – the death of the Christian’s heathen nature – through Christ’s sacrifice. No vicarious sacrifice occurs in Islam; the Muslim, on the contrary, sacrifices himself (The blood is the life, Mr Rumsfeld!, October 5, 2005).

Where is the moderation? The Christian either joins the People of God in its pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Heaven, or he does not; the Muslim either is a soldier of the ummah, or he is nothing. Religious conversion is not mere adaptation to another tradition. It is a change of people. If God is “able of these stones to raise children of Abraham” (Matthew 3:9), Christians are the Gentiles made into sons of Abraham by miracle. In Islamic society, the convert to Christianity instantly becomes an alien and an enemy.

God may be able to raise sons of Abraham from stones; that is not necessarily within the power of earthly churches. European Christianity, as I have argued often in the past, made a devil’s bargain with the heathen invaders whom it made into Christians in the thousand years between the fall of Rome and the conversion of the Balts. It permitted them to keep one foot in their national past and another in the Catholic Church, under the umbrella of universal empire. The peoples revolted against church and empire and reverted to their pagan roots, and then fought one another to a bloody standoff in the two great wars of the 20th century.

In parallel to Christianity, but in a different way, Islam made its own compromise with the nations it absorbed. It would defend the pure traditional society of tribal life against the encroachment of the empires that encircled them: first the Byzantines and Persians, then Christian Europe, and now America. Traditional life inevitably must break down in the face of globalization of trade and information, and the ummah closes ranks to delay the time when the descendants of today’s Muslims will look with pity upon ancestral photographs, as they turn momentarily from their video game.

Europe’s Christians could not summon up the “moderation” necessary to tolerate their Jewish neighbors until after 1945, when Europe was conquered and rebuilt by the Americans. Once the ambitions of Europe’s peoples were crushed in the world wars, European Christianity became “moderate” indeed, so moderate that Europeans no longer bother about it. They also do not bother to reproduce, so that the formerly Christian populations of Europe will disappear, starting with the captive nations of the former Soviet Union.

No Christian People of God emerged from Europe. In a century or two, few European peoples will exist in recognizable form. Americans, by contrast, arrived in the New World with the object – at least in the case of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – of becoming a new People of God in a new Promised Land.

In a December essay in First Things titled Our American Babylon, Father Richard John Neuhaus argues that the United States itself is not the Promised Land or the Kingdom of God; it is still another place of exile. In Christian theological terms that is quite true. But the stubborn fact remains that if the English Separatists who founded Massachusetts had not deviated from Christian theology, and set out to become a new chosen people in a new Promised Land, we would not be talking about the United States of America to begin with. Christianity drew the notion of a People of God from the Jews, upon whose trunk it proposes to graft the reborn Gentiles. But the graft did not take except where radical Protestants emulated the Jews, and set out to make a new people in a new land.

Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy, warns that America’s religious right is “abetting far-reaching ideological change and eroding the separation of powers between church and state”, giving the Republican Party “a new incarnation as an ecumenical religious party, claiming loyalties from hard-shell Baptists and Mormons, as well as Eastern Rite Catholics and Hasidic Jews”. On the face of it, this is a nonsensical statement, for how can a coalition of Baptists, Mormons, Catholics and Jews oppose separation of church and state, a doctrine promulgated by dissenting Protestants to protect their own religious practice against the persecution of an established church?

The fact that the US boasts roughly 200 major Christian denominations, none of which can aspire to a plurality of members, ensures that no possible theocracy ever could emerge. When Phillips uses the word “theocracy”, he simply means the emergence of a religious vote on such issues beloved of the secular left as homosexual marriage, abortion, or censorship of pornography. But there is nothing theocratic in people of faith forming occasional coalitions to impose what the law calls community standards.

American Christians are migrating en masse to denominations that preach Christ crucified and the saving power of his blood, eschewing the blancmange Christianity of the old mainline sects (‘It’s the culture, stupid’, November 5, 2004). But the United States is unique among the nations, an assembly of individuals called out from among the nations, where Christian identity is compatible with a secular definition of peoplehood. Even in the US Christians find that one cannot be half-pregnant: either one is saved, or one is not.

Islam does not know moderation or extremism: it only knows success or failure. Unlike Christianity, which prevailed only through the improbable project of abandoning its old center to create a new land altogether, Islam cannot exist outside of traditional society, which by definition knows no doubt. Nowhere else but in the United States has personal conscience rather than religious establishment succeeded as the guiding principle of Christianity. “Moderate Islam” is an empty construct; the Islam of the Afghan courts is the religion with which the West must contend.

Note
1. American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips. Viking, US$26.95, 462 pages.

*****

Cross-posted from Spengler

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Noah: A Good Jewish Boy’s Cinematic Drash

Monday, March 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Darren Aronofsky’s take on the classic tale of Noah is the Jewish guy’s Bible movie. The narrative, which does remain true to the textual account of Genesis, is crafted in the style akin to a scholarly drash. In another lifetime you might imagine this story to have been generated by a minyan of Talmud scholars poring over the story in their classes. Perhaps that is why the Christian audience has reacted so poorly to the film; it is not, in the words of Walter Hudson, told “from a Christian theological standpoint.” The audience is treated to a wrestling, not recounting, of the text for two very good reasons: A four-chapter story would make for a very short film and Aronofsky, for however religious he may or may not be at the moment, is most definitely 100% a Jew.

Aronofsky’s Noah remains, first and foremost, a story of redemption as it was interpreted thousands of years ago when paired with Haftarah portions in Isaiah (42-43 and 54-55) for the weekly Torah reading. Like the patriarch Jacob, Noah wrestles with God: the battle is a question of original sin and free will. Redemption, Aronofsky illustrates, is a choice entered into by covenant with God. It is not simply a no-strings-attached gift granted to perfectly bad people by a perfectly good looking guy who tests well with focus groups.

Contrary to most Bible epics, a faceless, voiceless God communicates His redemptive plan to Noah through the Biblically prophetic device of a metaphoric dream. “You must trust that He speaks to you in a way you understand,” Noah’s grandfather Methuselah advises. Reminiscent of the Tanakh prophecy “your old men will see visions, your young men will dream dreams,” Aronofsky engages Noah with his aged, wise grandfather, who advises him of Enoch’s prophecy that God would, one day, annihilate the world by fire.

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A Jew’s Take on Jesus Movies

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

BiblememeAcculturated‘s R.J. Moeller has penned an excellent commentary on faith-based films in light of the Christian controversy surrounding Noah:

…no one who doesn’t already believe in God will go see Son of God. And many who do believe in God and who do go see it are, like me, plopping down $14 or $15 purely from a sense of solidarity with the well-intentioned creators of such projects. There are other, better “Jesus movies.” A dramatic reading of some of the more risqué and exciting parts of the Bible by the likes of Morgan Freeman would interest me more than sitting through Son of God again.

And while neither option likely interests your secular, non-religious co-worker, neighbor, or relative, all of them will go see something like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. This is why I, as a Christian, am infinitely more excited about Noah than any other “faith-based” film in a long time – regardless of the theology or worldview found in it. I can actually talk to my non-Christian friends about it because they will actually pay U.S. currency (or BitCoin) to go see it.

…what I am suggesting is that while we work to inspire and equip new generations of artists who share our values to boldly venture into the pop-culture fray, we must not miss opportunities to introduce our worldview into the cultural conversation. … Art has the power to transcend and speak to the soul. But it must be able to meet people on their level before pointing them upward.

Upon first read I knew Moeller went out on a limb with his commentary, precisely because what he says is the truth. And truth doesn’t always gel with religious dogma; I’m a Jew, I should know. One advantage I do have over my Christian brothers when it comes to faith is that my Jewish culture encourages — and is built on — wrestling with God’s word. These matches stray far from the polite scenarios common to gentile Christian faith. However, they have resulted in a similarity between us, in that they have developed and sustained a religious culture that reveres commentary as much as the actual Word of God.

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5 Things the National Guard Jihadist Wants You to Know About Islam

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 - by Robert Spencer

“War is deceit,” said Muhammad, and Ased Abdur-Raheem, the would-be jihad terrorist about whom I wrote last week, took his words to heart. Formerly (and currently in the mainstream media, ever anxious to protect the image of Islam) known as Nicholas Teausant, Abdur-Raheem, 20, was a member of the Army National Guard who called for respect for the military uniform just three days before he was arrested. This was almost a year after he wrote on Instagram:

don’t get me wrong I despise america and want its down fall but yeah haha. Lol I been a part of the army for two years now and I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.

But he wasn’t always so deceitful. Last January, Abdur-Raheem kept a blog for twenty days, consisting of all of six posts, entitled “Just a Muslim Man Looking for answers in a Lost world.” It is refreshingly honest and direct, containing a wealth of information that the earnest young convert wanted you to know about Islam. Some of the highlights:

5. “Allah sent His Messenger with guidance and the true religion so that it might prevail over all other religions…”

This is from a Muslim denunciation of Valentine’s Day that has widely circulated on the Internet for several years, and was the last entry Abdur-Raheem posted on his blog. It is a reflection of Qur’anic teaching: “It is Allah who sent his messenger with guidance and a true religion that will prevail over all other religions, even though the pagans may dislike it” (9:33).

The Islam that young Nicholas Teausant embraced was frankly and openly supremacist, with no interest whatsoever in the “peaceful coexistence” and “pluralism” of the multiculturalist West. That Western intelligentsia, however, has taken little notice of the existence of this Islam, generally condemning such concerns as “Islamophobia,” and basing numerous domestic and foreign policies on the proposition that all Muslims in Western countries are secular-minded, benign pluralists. Meanwhile, this Valentine’s Day condemnation keeps circulating among English-speaking Muslims, year after year. Those Muslims can read the Qur’an, too.

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7 Ways Noah Turns the Bible Upside Down

Friday, March 28th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

I had no intention of seeing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a film releasing wider this weekend “inspired by the [biblical] story of Noah.” Though initial glimpses excited me, revelations regarding Aronofsky’s stark deviations from the biblical narrative blunted my interest. Word on the street was that Aronofsky sought to recast Noah in an environmentalist mold and completely abandon key biblical themes.

Thursday night, I found myself out and about with a couple of hours to kill and decided to catch an early screening. As it turns out, everything you’ve heard about the heresy in Noah proves true. Here are 7 ways Aronofsky’s Noah upends the Bible (major spoilers):

7. Return of the Ents

Yeah, you read that right. Ents, the giant walking trees from The Lord of the Rings. What, you don’t remember those in the Bible?

Okay, these aren’t ents precisely. They are “Watchers,” fallen angels who rebelled against “the creator” (God makes no appearance in the film) by descending to Earth to help mankind. They lumber about in clumsy stone bodies as punishment for their disobedience.

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