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5 Unexpected Lessons for Finding Love in 2015

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Lisa De Pasquale

Keep the Faith -- Lisa De Pasquale

Writing a book about dating is more exhibition than expertise. To be credible you have to show that you’ve been in the trenches. When I wrote my first book, Finding Mr. Righteous, I saw it as an exorcism of my past relationships so that I could move forward and find the true partnership with passion that I wanted.

Of course, when you write a book there is a ton of promotion and conversation that happen with those who (thankfully!) read it. Rather than a permanent exorcism it’s more like a museum you invite friends, family and strangers to visit. For the past year I’ve been a tour guide in this museum of relationships, the modern dating scene and my faith journey. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I’m always learning.

In addition to the important lessons of Finding Mr. Righteous, there are some others I’ve learned over the past year.

1. Throw Away Your ‘Must Haves’ List

You’ve heard the saying that women dress for other women, not for men. In dating, it’s true that some women make a list of who their partner must be based on what’s desired by other women. For some, it might be the kind of car he drives, his job, how much he makes, or even how tall he is.  Even if these are things you truly think are important to you, try dating outside your list.  Also, don’t confuse things like short-term items like salary with long-term items like ambition or potential. In an early episode of Sex and the City, Charlotte’s three must-haves are “looks, manners and money.” Her eventual second husband, Harry, didn’t necessarily have all three, yet many women consider him the best man in the series.

One of the most frequent “must haves” I see on friends’ lists is “he should be at least 6 feet tall.”  This has to be one of the dumbest because it has nothing to do with any characteristics that are important – values, ambition, goals in life, compatibility, etc. The most amazing guys I’ve ever met have been under 5’8”.

On second thought, keep looking for those six-footers. I’ll take the interesting short guys. As a friend recently told me, “A man is as tall as he acts.” 

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Does Science Provide Evidence For God’s Existence?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Does American Jewish Survival Rely on the Holocaust?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

For a while now, my editor David Swindle has been plaguing me to start a series on Jewish identity. Like any good family we disagree with each other about practically everything, cultural and religious identification included. I can’t think of one Jewish setting in which I wasn’t directly or indirectly accused by fellow Jews of being a “bad Jew” for some mundane reason or another. One incident involved the infamous “pepperoni pizza at a Hillel event, for or against” argument. (Truly the greatest Jewish American struggle of our time.) Joseph’s brothers beat him up, threw him in a ditch, and not much has changed since, attitude-wise. Need further proof? Check out the latest argument over how Jewish Americans relate to the Holocaust.

Apparently 73% of us rank the Holocaust as our top-rated “essential” to being Jewish. This disturbs renowned academic Jacob Neusner who’s made a career out of entwining himself into the vines of the Ivy League. Neusner’s argument boils down to the concept that American Jews have no real sense of or connection to their own identity. Therefore, they need to go outside the geographical box to find themselves, either through the Holocaust or Zionism.

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The Roman Catholic Church: History’s First Global Organization

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Editor’s Note: Check out the previous installments in Pierre’s ongoing series exploring the big ideas in Catholic life: 

The idea of all the countries on Earth gathering under a single roof to address issues of international concern had been a dream of mankind for who knows how long before Woodrow Wilson was finally able to convince the nations of Europe to finally do it as a League of Nations.

And though nations managed to come together in the past, it was usually borne of necessity to form military alliances or negotiate treaties for peace or trade among two or more of them and rarely for any other reason than that.

But well ahead of all such limited agreements, was the Roman Catholic Church which brought together representatives from at first, every corner of Europe, and then the world. Bound together by faith, tradition, and Canon Law, members of the Church also found unity in a common language. With Latin, Church members in Italy could communicate with those in China and Uganda and Paraguay.

And as communications, and travel, between nations improved, so were senior members of the Church, its bishops and Cardinals, able to convene on a regular basis, further tightening the collegial connections and fraternal relationships among its leaders.

The Church’s worldwide reach and global character was present from the very start when Jesus Himself instructed his apostles to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Through His actions while in the world, Jesus set the example, dealing with those outside the Jewish tradition such as the Samaritan woman at the well.

Upon his conversion, St. Paul got the message and took the Gospel outside of Israel to the eastern Roman world. Following the Council of Jerusalem where Peter agreed that Gentiles did not have to strictly adhere to Mosaic law in order to be followers of Jesus, he and other apostles left for other lands, scattering over the entire Roman Empire and beyond. By 313, after a long struggle for acceptance by Rome, Christians were freed from the fear of persecution and began to send out missionaries beyond the fringes of the Empire taking the first steps in becoming a truly international organization.

Today, the Church is represented in virtually every nation on Earth, each with its own hierarchy which in turn, connects directly to the Vatican in Rome. That connection among Catholics all over the world, is further tightened by use of the internet, websites, and email.

By the 6th century, as the Church grew and was forced to organize, the College of Cardinals was created and by 1059, its role as selector of Popes firmly established. Over the centuries, the College has been occupied primarily by Western Europeans with a scattering of eastern and North African members; but as the Church’s presence in the Middle East diminished with the rise of Islam, the College assumed a definite European character.

So matters stood into the 20th century when things began to change.

Following World War II, the role of Europe in the rest of the world shrank and in its stead, new nations arose. After the Second Vatican Council, held between 1962-1965, it was decided that governance of the Church needed a more international cast to better reflect its worldwide presence. Since then, many new Cardinals have been created with members coming from every corner of the globe.

The international scope of the Church has again been confirmed with the recent announcement by Pope Francis that he would appoint 17 new Cardinals this year with most coming from South America, Asia, and Oceania.

Among those to join the College of Cardinals on Feb. 14 will be Archbishops Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel of Ethiopia; John Atcherley Dew of New Zealand; Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Vietnam; Charles Maung Bo of Burma; and Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovitchavanij of Thailand.

Also on the lists are Bishops Arlindo Gomes Furtado of Cape Verde and Soane Patita Paini Mafi of Tonga.

“The most evident criteria is that of universality,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, confirming that the object of Francis’ choices is that of collegiality and global representation in a Church that’s expanding most quickly in the developing parts of the world.

The duties of the College of Cardinals include advising the Pope in the governance of the Church, electing his successor, and often acting as papal envoys. Some may be officers of the Roman Curia while others serve as bishops of major diocese around the world. Eligible to vote for a new Pope until age 80, the number of cardinals has traditionally been held at 120.

Anyone looking at the red garbed Cardinals on television when they gather for a papal election or conference is instantly struck by the variety in its sea of faces. Sure, most are still of European descent, but many more obviously hail from Africa, South America, and the Far East. And unlike secular global institutions, they may disagree on some policy issues but they remain united in a single overriding belief in Christ and His Church which informs all of their actions.

And so, even as other international institutions are sundered by disagreements and threaten to break down over security, social policy, economics, even climate change, the Catholic Church, after twenty centuries, continues to remain viable as the only global entity still capable of speaking with a single voice.

*****

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Is Religion Illogical?

Sunday, February 8th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Catch up on Part I of this series: “Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem”

As we continue though Craig Biddle’s critique of religion found in his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts That Support It, we are introduced to the concept of objective morality:

“Objective” means “fact-based.” For morality to be objective, it has to be based on a standard of value derived not from feelings, but from facts.

The notion of objective morality stands in contrast to various forms of subjectvism which have dominated much of human history. Biddle lists “religious subjectivism” among “secular subjectivism” and “personal subjectivism” as three variations of the same phenomenon. In this way, he connects the rhetoric and methods of the church, the Nazis, and hedonistic criminals.

This is how an argument for God always ends. One believes because one believes – which means: because one wants to. Religion is a doctrine based not on facts, but on feelings. Thus, claims to the contrary notwithstanding, religion is a form of subjectivism.

In light of this fact, it should come as no surprise that while secular subjectivism denies some of religion’s unproved, evidence-free claims, it demands and employs the very same methods – faith, mysticism, and dogma.

For instance, according to the Nazis, Hitler’s will determined the truth…

Believers may scoff at the comparison. Yet consider the foundation upon which it is built.

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President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Mark Ellis

In President Me, Adam Carolla takes the pulse of the social contract, a pulse that is slackening. Narcissism is the sapping beast.

Carolla sees an insidious minority that has turned out to be “assholes.” Predictably, the trait has infiltrated what is now known anachronistically as “the fabric of society.”

The death of God, absent fathers, subversive pop culture, unassimilated immigration, and infantilizing, cradle/grave government all factor as threats to destroy from within America’s exceptionalist sovereignty.

Carolla’s admonition is about a stratum of quasi-pathological narcissism breeding within our culture.

The following formulization often comes up in discussions about Islamic extremism: even if only one percent of Muslims are radicalized, that means 16 million people are in solidarity on some level with jihad.

In Carolla’s equation, even if only one per cent of our nation’s population is at least borderline pathologically narcissistic, that’s approximately three million, one hundred and sixty thousand assholes.

Unfortunately, these figures are probably low.

PJ Lifestyle’s Kathy Shaidle previously laid out Carolla’s organizational outline for the book, a collection of indictments handed down for each department of the federal government, plus random, related take-downs of entities like the United Nations. Shaidle’s mention of the explicit language that peppers the narrative will serve here as well.

President Me serves as both grand thesis and field guide. The comedian and author, who started funny and grows ever more trenchant in his observations, brings to the phenomenon of narcissism on the march a noteworthy specificity; readers will find themselves adding personal worsts to his gallery of self-centered rogues and counterintuitively manifested government entities.

Narcissism is not the only target of Carolla’s brawling cultural assessment, but it’s the metastasizing thread that holds the book together. Often laugh out loud, the larger context of the work has humorless implications for Western societies under threat from virulent ideologies and belief systems, and the madness inherent in a refracted society disassociated from rigorous self-appraisal.

In his third book, Carolla—though scarcely the first to call out cultural narcissism—makes narcissism his bitch, pardon the vernacular, roughing-up by decree everything from big-boxes to the airline industry, bumper stickers to the Department of Homeland Security.

The question becomes, how best can conservative counterculture counter the galloping solipsism of our times?

One answer may be to join the rugged individualism of American conservatism with conservative valuation of the social contract. These components of an individual and/or group ethos must oppose on all fronts an electronics-generated, nanny-statist, broken home-enabled reanimation of the “Me Decade.”

Reading Carolla suggests that contemporary narcissism’s sweep makes the ’70s Me Decade look like the “Mother Teresa Decade.”

A culture beset by multitudes afflicted with narcissistic personality disorders is weakened by over-association with the “me” orientation, and a disassociation from the “we.”  Such a flaccid culture is threatened by cultures in which the “we” construct is established, and the guiding motivation is negative.

In Islamic extremism and its terror component, ideas of self esteem and individual rights are violently abrogated.

In the United States, untrammeled immigration breeds narcissism both from the standpoint of the trespassers who think the laws don’t apply to them and come expecting to share the benefits of a nation for which they hold no modern claim, and from the standpoint of progressive segments of we the people, who are so narcissistic as to think that we can absorb the globe’s unwashed masses, that we’ve got it under control enough to pick up a gigantic tab in perpetuity. We can’t.

Country clubbers and chambers of commerce who want to open the floodgates to cheap labor out of greed are among the most virulent progenitors of the narcissism plague.

It is a counterculture’s job to be vigilant.

Narcissism reflected reveals the triumph of equalitarianism over merit, entitlement over responsibility, immigration (both cultural and quantitative) over sovereignty, and raises the chillingly retrograde specter of globally administered social justice.

Our current administration propagates the idea that America is no better or worse than any other country, a position that would seem to be the opposite of nationalized narcissism. Dig deeper and the truth is that for those who loathe our capitalist republic and everything it stands for, dismantlement becomes the ultimate objective. For any person, administration, or movement to think they have the right to transform the country by any other means than the consensus of the governed represents narcissism gone over the edge.

If traditionalists and conservatives don’t adamantly conceptualize and defend who we are as a culture, our children and grandchildren will absorb the message that narcissistic obsession, and a corollary disregard for the principle of societal cohesion—a disregard clothed in shallow adherence to political correctness and empty homilies about inclusiveness and diversity—is the stuff of post-millennial life.

However micro his targets, or amusing his characterizations, Carolla’s prognosis might best be distilled by appropriating an infamous lyric which surfaced in 1999’s debut by the heavy rock band Disturbed.

Our culture may be “Down with the Sickness,” but conservatives must not be.

It is the job of the conservative counterculture’s rugged individualists to indentify rends in a social contract that upholds freedom, independence, and personal responsibility, and ride into the breach wherever and however they appear.

To join societal critics like Carolla in calling out the corrosive influence of individuals and entities which threaten our way of life with the whirlwind of self, and the vortex of decadence.

*****

This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion (email DaveSwindlePJM AT Gmail.com if you would like to respond):

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The Sad Truth About the Vaccine Debate’s Superstitious Roots

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

Things looked pretty darn good in the middle of the twentieth century. We split the atom, using its energy for power and to send the most dead-end, dead-enders of the Axis scurrying. The Green Revolution saved a billion people from starving to death. On the micro level, we developed vaccines for polio, mumps measles and rubella.

In other words, we had the future and it was so bright, the world had to wear shades.

Fast forward another half-century.

In January 2015, we have at least 91 people infected in an outbreak linked to Disney Land. School districts are quarantining some students. The disease has spread from the happiest place on earth to other states and beyond our borders.

To keep this in perspective, we had 644 cases of measles in the United States for the year of 2014. That was a record year.

But hey, these things happen. After all, President Obama made our border easier to crack than a high school kegger and invited an unprecedented surge of illegal alien kids to crash that party. So an uptick of children’s diseases makes sense, right?

One problem.

The disease is hitting the unvaccinated Americans and those unvaccinated aren’t born in East LA.

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“[u]nvaccinated children tended to be white, to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to live in a household with an annual income exceeding 75,000 dollars, and to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little influence over vaccination decisions for their children” (emphasis added).

So it’s not the poor and ignorant who avoid vaccines. It’s the Real Housewives of Orange County.

Why?

Well, in their defense, they have Jenny McCarthy on her side. And Jenny McCarthy went on both Oprah and Larry King.

The reality is that a significant subset of our population has bought hook, line and sinker that vaccines cause autism. They even had a study that showed the link between vaccines and autism.

Of course that study is discredited, not as an error but as an actual fraud by a man paid by the lawyers suing vaccine manufacturers. Its author lost his medical license. His coauthors removed their names from the study. Lancet, which carried the fraudulent data, pulled it.

Yet the non-vaccinated children still come from educated households.

Because autism.

Okay, that’s just one crazy superstition that can kind of make sense because a washed-up Playboy model glommed onto a fraudulent study.

That’s no reason to see a trend, right?

Well, look at the case of manmade global warming.

Well, wait. Here the elites have science. After all, didn’t President Obama point out that 2014 was the hottest year in human history?

If you can’t trust a president who just had his butt handed to him in the midterms, whom can you trust?

Except, well, science and its refutation of his claim.

In ancient days, when life was nasty, brutish and short, people looked for any sort of advantage to reach the ripe old age of 30. First, there was fire and with it came cool things like keeping the animals at bay and not having bleeding runs every time you ate your latest kill. Then came the wheel, an easier way to get that steaming carcass of meat from here to there.

But let’s face it. In the game of survival, there’s no better way to get an edge on the local saber-toothed tiger — or your annoying neighbor — than seeing the future.

Thus we have the casting of bones because everybody knows that if anything is linked to the future, it’s chicken bones.

I mean, that’s just logic.

Global warming alarmists have their own version of chicken bones, in the form of computer climate models:

warmingpredictions

Chart via the Wall Street Journal 

Problem: When compared to what is actually observed in the real world, the climate models fail to make accurate predictions. And this is a consistent problem.

You have to think that if our chicken-bone-throwing ancestors noticed that none of their throws matched up to actual events, they’d realize something was wrong. Perhaps they might not give up on the enterprise of chicken-bone throwing altogether – after all, who can deny chicken bones? – but they might decide that they’d killed a defective chicken.

Today’s educated savages can’t even make that leap. An honest man would say since the models don’t figure in things like water vapor – just a small part of the atmosphere, after all – and don’t actually predict the future, let’s try something else.

Instead, the educated savages award the computer modelers the Nobel Prize.

Primitive superstition is also strong in Leftist economics.

In World War II, the tribes of Papua New Guinea saw vast amounts of wealth coming into the Pacific on both the Allied and Axis sides. They had no way to comprehend the power of industrialized economies fully mobilized and dedicated to the largest war the world had ever seen. The natives made the natural assumption that spirits sent cargo to the earth and the evil outsiders jacked the loot.

So they built fake airplanes. They erected structures in the jungle and filled them with fake cash, sometimes even making fake suitcases.

Hmmm. Make work projects paid for with worthless currency. Doesn’t that sound like Obama’s stimulus plan or Paul Krugman – another educated savage Nobel laureate –  looking for an alien threat in order to create demand to boost the economy?

Yes, Keynesian economic theory is a cargo cult, dressed up in suits and the flowery rhetoric of the university. Unfortunately, it shows the same effectiveness.

Welcome to the new Dark Ages, a time of policy based on superstitions easily recognized by savages sitting around the campfire. They might not understand the terms of the new cargo cults that have risen but they’d understand that old time religion.

******

image illustration via shutterstock /

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VIDEO: Can Freedom and Sharia Coexist?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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VIDEO: Klavan & Whittle Prove the Compatibility of Science & Religion

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Andrew Klavan

*****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture 

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Israelis—and Conservatives—Are Going Vegan

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

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It turns out that Israel—which is a frontrunner in many fields including hi-tech, medicine, agriculture, defense, and others—is actually leading the world in the field of veganism.

The nearly 5 percent of Israelis who are now vegans is the highest per capita total in the world. Another 8 percent are vegetarians. This is a very dramatic rise from just four years ago, when Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics found that only 2.6 percent of Israelis were either vegetarians or vegans.

And the trend is apparently growing. The Times of Israel quotes Israeli vegan activist Omri Paz:

The makeup of the community is the biggest change…. In the past, maybe they were more spiritual, or people society viewed as a little different, a little strange. A lot of the new vegans are mainstream—vegan lawyers, vegan teachers.

The Times goes on to note:

Israeli veganism took root in secular liberal circles, but religious Israelis are joining the movement, too. Many note that the biblical Adam and Eve were vegetarians in the Garden of Eden.

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And as another report notes:

Even the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], in which most Israeli young men and women have to serve, now offers soldiers leather-free boots and a small allowance to buy themselves alternatives to the food in mess halls.

To some extent Israelis’ vegan tendency could be rooted in the kosher laws, which take meat-eating seriously and set restrictions on it.

Meanwhile, an article by Mary Eberstadt last month on National Review Online reports:

Conservative circles in Washington and New York include a growing number of…animal softies, ranging from mindful carnivores to all-the-way vegans. As the respectful treatment accorded theologian Charles Camosy’s recent book For Love of Animals goes to show, Catholic/Christian hangouts harbor fellow travelers like that too.

Eberstadt goes on to note:

within American conservatism itself, a growing coalition of newly attentive carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans is steadily acquiring new momentum. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that the freshest thinking on animal welfare these days is emanating not from the Left but rather from writers who are Christian or conservative—or both.

As both an Israeli and a conservative, I welcome both these trends. I’ve been a vegetarian for about twenty-five years, and in more recent years, a near-vegan.

The reason is simple. You’ve had dogs, or cats, or both? So you know how sensitive and emotional they are. Why would you think the cows, pigs, chickens and so on that people slaughter and eat are any different? Why put them through ordeals and death?

I used to think this didn’t apply to dairy products, since animals aren’t killed to obtain them. But modern dairy farming—like modern factory farming in general—is actually full of appalling cruelty to the animals involved.

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But even if there were a sweeping reform of factory farming, and farm animals were allowed to live more or less decent lives before being subjected to “humane slaughter,” I would remain a near-vegan (and I may make it to full veganism). Should we be killing animals so we can eat their dead flesh? Is it civilized? And is it much more civilized to have a cow’s milk on my table?

I would agree that it was justified if people, like cats, needed animal products for their health. But that, of course, is not the case; there are many millions of perfectly healthy vegetarians and vegans in the world. My quarter-century of increasingly stringent vegetarianism finds me at the peak of health. And I will never forget the light, pleasant feeling I had as soon as I stopped eating meat; by now, of course, I take it for granted.

So if health isn’t the justification for meat, that leaves two others: it tastes good, and it’s what people have been doing for a long time.

Yes, I recall that it tasted good—and so do all sorts of delightful non-meat dishes, including ersatz meat products if you miss meat. Is a good taste really a reason to kill a living being?

And as for the fact that people have been eating meat for a long time, that, of course, is not a strong argument. Other “traditional” human practices have included cannibalism, human sacrifice, and slavery. Longevity is hardly a justification.

What I’m saying is best summed up by the image of a vegan soldier with non-leather boots. There is, lamentably, still a world of belligerent, murderous humans out there whom one has no choice but to fight. But by going vegetarian-vegan you link yourself with the world of peace, harmony, and respect for life, and you expand it.

*****

image illustrations via  jorisvo /  /  / Shutterstock.com

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Here’s How One Small-Government Conservative Chose to Die

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

LinkByfield04.jpg

Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.

Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.

I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.

Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.

My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.

Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.

(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)

Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.

Stockland wrote:

No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.

Some perspective for American readers:

My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.

Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.

Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise –  that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.

Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.

On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:

Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.

“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”

But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.

That makes what follows all the more notable.

Stockland writes:

Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.

I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.

I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.

“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”

When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”

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Is This The Most Potent Fictional Take-Down of Scientology?

Monday, January 26th, 2015 - by Roger L Simon

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The controversial Church of Scientology has been in the crosshairs of the media of late, notably with Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s excellent journalistic study Going Clear and Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master. Now comes Allen Barton’s play Disconnection, which opened Saturday at the Beverly Hills Playhouse venue of the Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles.

Like The Master, Disconnection does not mention the “S”-word but it is more than obvious the celebrity-driven religion famed for almost imprisoning its gullible and needy adherents is the subject here. The play, however, is considerably more potent and provocative than the Anderson movie, which is surprisingly ponderous given its dramatic subject.

Barton, who extricated himself from Scientology some years ago, tells the story of the apostasy of two members of the church, a father and a daughter, who have themselves been estranged from each other. The two are trying to disconnect from the religion and reconnect with each other — and it isn’t easy. The father (Jay Hugely), a lawyer, is struggling with his aging piano teacher (Dennis Nollette), himself a reluctant member of the church and onetime friend of its mercurial L. Ron Hubbard-like founder, Oldman. The daughter (Carter Scott), herself now a high ranking church official, is trapped in a nightmare with Oldman’s successor, a junior Gestapo-type named The Chairman.

Indeed Disconnection often puts you in mind of other totalitarianisms, including today’s radical Islamic versions where apostasy is, of course, penalized in even more draconian manners than in Scientology, although there are imputations, both in and out of Barton’s play, of brutal, even homicidal, behavior for the more modern religion.

The play is unconventional in its form, at times breaking the fourth wall, and includes, in one of its best moments, a soliloquy by Oldman (well played by Robert L. Hughes) justifying why he has created this bizarre monstrosity. It almost had me taking the plunge to get an e-meter reading. (I didn’t.)

The production was skillfully directed by Joel Polis and produced by Gary Grossman for Skylight. Barton’s previous work Years to the Day was highly acclaimed and was performed in Paris, New York, Kansas City and at the Edinburgh Festival. The superb Disconnection seems destined to follow in its footsteps. If you’re in the SoCal area, see it.

*****

Cross-posted from Roger L. Simon’s blog

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The Un-Popular Face of Black Activism in America

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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“Black” has become an idol. Oddly enough we learned that lesson through the making of Selma, a film focused on the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who boldly declared, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Director Ava DuVernay defended the rewriting of history into what amounts to a black power narrative (mythical kneeling blacks before white cops and all), stating, “This is art; this is a movie; this is a film. I’m not a historian. I’m not a documentarian.” The mainstream media jumped on the bait thrown out by the film’s star David Oyelowo, who declared that ”parallels between Selma and Ferguson are indisputable.” The fact that neither the Academy nor filmgoers fell march-step in line only acted as further proof of the conspiracy against “black and brown people” in Hollywood.

The race war fomented in the rise of the Black Power movement (the nasty “alternative” to King’s civil rights movement) continues unabated. In fact, it has opened on a new front, one that ties racial strife with national security and even international relations. Playing on strong ties to the Nation of Islam, Black Power now has its eye set on the Palestinian territories and places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the like are set to become the next battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making way for the planting of hotbeds of radical Islamic terror.

But, to tell the story of Ferguson and Florida’s black activists traveling on solidarity missions to the Palestinian territories is to exact the same kind of indecent omissions as DuVernay. There are blacks out there who support Israel and who, in fact, draw inspiration from the civil rights movement in doing so. The primary difference between these black Zionists and their Black Power counterparts: They are motivated by Jesus, not Islam.

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in 2006, Cornetta Lane an African American at Wayne State University, even went as far as expressing this support by singing Hatikvah in front of an anti-Israel protester who claimed that Israel was a racist state.When Jewish students asked at the time why she sang Hatikvah, Cornetta replied that her pastor, Glen Plummer, explained that Jews significantly helped out African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and that Jews contributed significantly to both the NAACP and the Urban League, and were advisers to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, when she saw that there was going to be an anti-Israel rally, Cornetta decided to take this step.

Much like Cornetta Lane, Chloe Valdary has drawn on her uniquely Biblical Christian upbringing and study of the civil rights movement to develop her own brand of Zionist activism. Dubbed “the Lioness of Zion,” Valdary started a pro-Israel student group on her college campus that garnered national attention, turning the college student into a speaker for a variety of Zionist organizations, including CAMERA and CUFI:

The parallels’ between the black struggle during the civil rights movement and the Jewish people today insofar as the legitimacy of Zionism is concerned is staggering. Martin Luther King Jr. [was] a Zionist but more importantly he realized that we must advance our duty when advancing the cause of human rights today. If he were alive today, he would surely be pro-Israel. This is one of the reasons why I am such a staunch Zionist.

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Valdary is not alone. Dumisani Washington, a pastor and music teacher in Northern California, has formed the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization “dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people, and people of African descent through education and advocacy.” Raised a Christian, Washington had a strong interest in the Old Testament and Hebrew history at a young age. Growing up in the segregated south, he drew inspiration from the Exodus as well as Martin Luther King:

Dr. King was a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and a friend of the Jewish people. Many who know of his legacy know of his close relationship with Rabbi [Avraham] Joshua Heschel as well as the Jewish support for the Black civil rights struggle. Many are unaware, however, of the negative push back Dr. King got from some people. Particularly after the 1967 war in Israel, international criticism against the Jewish State began to rise.  Dr. King remained a loyal friend, and made his most powerful case for Israel almost 1 year after the Six Day War – and 10 days before his death.

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Both Valdary and Washington have raised the ire of pro-Palestinian organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization that misappropriates black history and depicts black supporters of Israel as the Uncle Toms of the 21st century. Contrary to the Black Power impetus forging the Ferguson-Palestine relationship, Washington has outlined the differences between the Palestinian liberation and civil rights movements, and in an open letter to SJP, Valdary condemned the organization, writing:

You do not have the right to invoke my people’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Americans remain blind to these modern day civil rights/Zionist activists because, contrary to the preaching of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have been made into a color-centric society by the Black Power movement and its contemporary descendants. Race has become an idol. Black Power has created the mythical “black and brown faces” to be honored through tokens of affirmative action while sacrificing living human beings on the altar of ghetto culture because of the color of their skin. To remain blind to the idolatry of race is to remain blind to the real struggle for civil rights in America, the struggle to be viewed as a human being instead of a race-based demographic or a color-based “minority.” This is the struggle that unites rather than divides us on issues of economy, quality of life, and yes, even national security and the threat of terrorism.

Now, more than ever, we must value each other on the content of our character, lest the idolatry that comes from the obsession with skin color blind us from the true threats unfolding in our midst.

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5 Ways Hebrew Is (Very) Different from English

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

When I started learning Hebrew at age 29, one year before moving to Israel, it seemed daunting. Until then, English was the only language I knew; now, at a relatively late age, I was setting out to learn another one that had a different alphabet, belonged to a different language family, and was overall distant and exotic from the standpoint of English.

Some of the ways in which Hebrew differs from English were indeed hard to get used to, others not so much. What was fascinating was to find how there are different modes of human speech. While the content of what gets expressed is basically the same, the mechanisms for doing so are not. It would be all the more intriguing to learn a third language; I wish I had the time.

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Christianity’s Human Sacrifice Problem

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

sacrifice

Does Christianity call for human sacrifice?

When you put the question like that, the instinctive response of any given Christian would tend toward a resounding “no.” After all, human sacrifice is a barbaric act which no rational person could condone. We believers like to regard ourselves as rational.

Yet, a cursory examination of popular Christian doctrine suggests that human sacrifice – to one degree or another – stands as a central tenet of the faith. In his book Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, author Craig Biddle cites “religionists” – including many prominent Christian theologians – to demonstrate that religion calls upon man to sacrifice his own interests to “an alleged God.”

As a Christian, I find Biddle’s observations compelling. Having considered them within the broader context of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy for several years, I have come to question the manner in which Christian teachers present the topic of sacrifice. Increasingly, I have come under the conviction that Christendom has interpreted sacrifice incorrectly. In my view, it is because Christendom has misinterpreted sacrifice that critics like Biddle are able to present Christianity as force for evil rather than good.

With this introductory essay, I invite you to join me in an ongoing exploration of Christian doctrine and the challenges brought against it. My objective, as we proceed week after week, will be to correct what I have come to regard as a doctrinal error causing tremendous confusion within the church and posing a stumbling block for seekers and believers alike. To be clear, my claim is not that God’s Word is wrong, but that our reading of it has been. I hope to demonstrate that my altered view of sacrifice is the view actually taught within scripture.

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Here’s Your Map of the Catholic Church

Sunday, January 25th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

****

The Roman Catholic Church is almost 2,000 years old and has grown over the centuries to include people of every nationality, every culture, and every kind of social system. With such a long history and diverse membership, it can’t be any wonder that the Church has evolved into the complex structure it is today.

As such, the Church can sometimes appear to be an intimidating institution to some who are quick to throw up their hands in frustration and give up on trying to figure it all out. Impatient to learn the whys and wherefores, or to take into account common sense and human nature, the very size and scope of the Church has often given rise to discomfort regarding organized religion.

But the reality is that no group of more than a handful of people has ever come together without becoming organized. How else could its members accomplish anything? Or once accomplished, preserve its gains? The truth is that without organization, any group, be it a nation or a religion, will remain weak, in-cohesive, and eventually lose track of its founding principals.

For the Catholic Church however, a schematic of its structure can be easier to understand than outsiders might believe and having one, could make it easier to navigate the internal currents of ongoing trends and debates.

On paper, such a schematic can best be considered in two dimensions: vertical and horizontal.

Vertically, the Church presents a simple structure with the Pope at the top, the cardinals next, bishops afterward, the priesthood, and finally the laity at the bottom. But just because the Pope is at the top of the structure, it doesn’t mean he’s any more important than the laity at the bottom. One of the Pope’s descriptives after all is “the servant of the servants of God” as demonstrated each year when he washes the feet of selected faithful in imitation of Christ.

From different sections of the vertical dimension, the Church extends horizontally with various religious and intellectual pursuits; philosophical and theological thought; establishment of religious orders and institutions such as schools, hospitals, and charitable endeavors; and day-to-day religious practices and popular movements emanating from every level of a vibrant, dynamic community.

But as with any other group comprised of human beings, Catholics will have their disagreements and heated controversies. Whatever intellectual ferment there might be however, is always conducted within the clear boundaries defined by the Church’s Magisterium, or the unchanging deposit of faith made up of sacred scripture and Tradition.

With that in mind, what are some of the deep currents forming the undertow of Catholic life today? What issues are being discussed, what groups are being formed, that stand the best chance of influencing the culture of the Church in years to come?

Focolarini

Much of the vigor in the modern Catholic Church is emerging from the laity with new groups and movements cropping up everywhere and quickly gathering thousands of members scattered around the world. Take the Focolarini movement for example: made up of single men and women living in separate communities who pool their belongings in order live Jesus’ request “That all be one.” Over the years since the movement began, it has grown beyond its Catholic roots to include members of many other faiths.

Emmanuel Community

Like Focolarini, the Emmanuel Community sprang from the laity with thousands of members across the globe. Served by clergy but primarily made up of ordinary people, they answer God’s call to holiness while living in the world and holding evangelizing events around the globe.

Hermeneutics of Continuity

Far from the ground-level activities of such groups as Focolarini and the Emmanuel Community, scholars continue to wrestle with the effects of Vatican II by way of the Hermeneutics of Continuity which maintains that there was no disruption in basic Church teachings as a result of the council. The Hermeneutics of Rupture, championed by liberal reformers, claims the opposite but a recent letter written by Pope Francis clearly supports Continuity.

Theology of the Body

A major topic that will continue to resonate within the Church and beyond is the Theology of the Body, developed by John Paul II over 129 lectures. These teachings seek to counter the objectification of the human body by modern society and restore its place as a God-centered creation.

Preferential Option of the Poor

A key teaching of the Church that has resulted in its being drawn into the realm of secular politics is the preferential option for the poor, the basis for its stance on social justice issues. With its basis in the teachings by Jesus that emphasize the need to care for the poor, the Church is likely to continue its involvement with such non-spiritual issues as immigration, welfare, and income inequality.

The Seamless Garment

With the sanctity of life still threatened by modern society, the idea of a Seamless Garment that opposes any kind of killing of human beings be it by capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide, or abortion is likely to remain as a major theme in Catholic circles.

Communion and Liberation

A free association movement, the Communion and Liberation has no official enrollment for members. Those interested simply read and follow the weekly catechesis as spelled out in its School of Community for their formation. The group simply proclaims the idea that the Christian event is the foundation of authentic personal liberation with members urged to become active partners in the Church’s mission in every area of society.

Catholic Charismatic Movement

Around since the late 1960s following Vatican II’s call for a new Pentecost, the Catholic charismatic renewal is attractive to some believers who crave more avenues for expression of their faith outside of weekly Mass attendance.

Opus Dei

Perhaps the most well known (and successful) of the new movements arising from the laity, Opus Dei emerged from the Spanish Civil War and is comprised mostly of everyday Catholics who continue to live at home or with their families. Having since spread around the world, members believe that everyone is called to holiness and that simply living an ordinary life can be a path to sanctity.

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Exposing Feminism’s Patriarchy Myth on Campus

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Arthur Chu wrote a wandering epithet over at Salon on “bitter nerd” Scott Aaronson’s rant against feminism. Aaronson’s complaints as detailed in Chu’s piece are far from new. As a graduate teaching assistant I had many male students (rather nerdy types) walk out of film theory classes declaring they were “horrible people” and “secret rapists” because they were born male. In the wake of the campus rape lies of 2014, who can blame these guys for believing feminism is conducting its own War Against Men:

This is not a debate about gender roles. It is not about economics or the esoterica of hateful radicals in an ivory tower. This is a war, an ideological campaign to smear all men as moral monsters. It is not a war against “patriarchy” or some imagined evil rich guy. This is a war on men as such – of all races and social classes. It is a war against your brothers, sons, fathers, friends and relatives. And right now, the bad guys and girls are winning.

“…[H]ow could [Aaronson] be targeted by books written by second-wave feminists when he was a toddler?” Chu asks incredulously. Camille Paglia answers Chu in her book Vamps and Tramps, and most recently in her Time magazine piece on the overblown campus rape epidemic. Second-wave feminists believe themselves to be superior human beings through a pseudo-science that negates biology, psychology and religion in favor of a sterile view of the world as a grand social order which must be maintained and controlled through Marxist politics. To put it rather simply, the second wave threw out biology and psychology and mocked God, making a target of every man like Scott who reads feminist literature only to walk away convinced that he’s an inherent rapist because he was born male. As Paglia explains:

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

Paglia details that Marxist feminists “…simplistically project outward onto a mythical ‘patriarchy’ their own inner conflicts and moral ambiguities.” Men have no such external myth on which to blame what Chu calls “internal demons” which is why for men these moral struggles are easily chalked off as “slippery things.” Chu writes

I do know that what could help women… is to find the guys who are doing bad things to her and stop those guys from doing that. That’s why feminism is more focused on women’s issues than men’s, because women’s issues are the things happening out in the world where we can do something about them.

This absurdity is an outgrowth of the second wave’s politicization of male rape. Female rape, highly eroticized in the ’70s, was legitimized by the feminist movement as sexual fantasy only to become an illicit crime when acted out by a male counterpart. Paglia notes, “…the illicit is always highly charged,” which is why the issue of campus rape has become the most highly charged issue of feminism today. This also explains why rape has become the source for such incredible moral ambiguity and why men, the mythical figures onto which the moral ambiguities of the female sex are projected, are increasingly blamed for women’s bad sexual decision-making.

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The story of Molly Morris and Corey Mock is nothing new to the campus rape scene. Having met on Tinder, a social media app designed to fulfill hook-up scenarios, Mock pursued classmate Morris, who played hard to get until agreeing to a breakfast date. Morris took Mock up on his invitation to a party, but wound up not arriving until 2 a.m., only to find a bunch of male wrestlers with few female faces in the crowd. Partaking in plenty of booze, Morris implies she was drugged and woke up the next day naked in bed with Mock. She decided not to go to the police because “she was not emotionally ready to enter a criminal justice system that would scrutinize her life and choices.”

Her’s is a pathetic excuse that permits the consequences of her bad decision-making to be projected onto the mythical patriarchy represented by Mock and the criminal justice system. When Morris finally did approach their university’s administration Mock was found innocent, then guilty, then granted a stay and finally expelled from the school in what amounted to a politically motivated public relations debacle. Mock’s side of the story is only given by his father via the comment field at the end. He explicitly details his son’s sexual encounter to make it clear that it was, indeed, consensual. After explaining what happened to his son, he concludes, “Morally and ethically I want to say, don’t have sex until you get married. We all know that would be naive.”

Would it? The reality is that abstinence has become the only 100% guaranteed way to avoid being falsely accused of sexual assault. That reality check highlights the long-forgotten intrinsic value of abstinence culture. The moralists who promoted that antiquated agenda understood that the allure of sexuality and the power of sex needed to be contextualized through marriage so societal order could be maintained. When society rejected marriage culture, it implicitly accepted the second-wave feminist alternative. Hence, every man is a rapist and every woman a victim.

Paglia argues that “rape will not be understood until we revive the old concept of the barbaric, the uncivilized.” Likewise, the problem of campus rape – that is, second-wave feminism’s grotesque predilection for falsely accusing male sex partners of assault in an attempt to soothe their own wounded pride and troubled souls – will not cease until moral order, built on a solid biological and psychological understanding of the individual and an acceptance of moral responsibility on the part of both parties, is restored.

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Study: Gay Mormon Men Divorce Straight Mormon Women

Monday, January 19th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

DIVORCE

Who’d a thunk it:

The LDS couples profiled on TLC’s “My Husband Is Not Gay” may find these statistics sobering: Marriages like theirs — same-sex attracted husbands and straight wives — are two to three times more likely to end in divorce than others.

That finding and others come from a newly released in-depth survey of 1,612 self-selected LGBT/same-sex attracted Mormons and former Mormons, thought by researchers to be the largest study ever conducted with this population.

Rather than tapping a random sample, John Dehlin, a doctoral student at Utah State University, and Bill Bradshaw, a retired Brigham Young University professor, with help from Renee Galliher, also of USU, solicited responses via various websites, including pro-Mormon outlets such as North Star International and those more critical such as Dehlin’s own “Mormon Stories” podcast.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess this study would apply to couples of other religions, too.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Are the Biggest Controversies In Catholicism Today?

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 - by Pierre Comtois

Controversy hasn’t been unknown to the Catholic Church.

Almost from the very beginning tensions and rifts divided factions at the Council of Jerusalem as described in Acts of the Apostles where Paul met with Peter and others to make the case for allowing gentiles to join the newly forming Christian movement without the need for conforming to purely Jewish religious practices such as circumcision.

Over the centuries other fault lines appeared including theological battles with Donatists and Gnostics, the formation of the Bible, and the great schism between East and West.

Corrupted during the era of the Borgia Popes, the Church was roiled in dissatisfaction on the part of many of its members, eventually leading to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

All that is to be understood. After all, the Church itself may be the mystical Body of Christ, but its individual parts, represented in its members, are human and thus open to disagreement, vulnerable not only to sin but all the ego-based weaknesses of mankind making for power struggles, be they earthly or spiritual.

But since the years of missionary expansion when Europe was colonizing the world, controversies and jealousies arose between various religious orders, few issues before the modern era have risen to the level of true controversy and a period of intellectual calm settled over the Church.

Thus, a remarkable collegiality pervaded from the defeat of Napoleonism through most of the twentieth century. In later decades, some controversy about letting priests marry and allowing women into the priesthood attracted media attention but never amounted to much among the faithful themselves. Instead, the greatest potential for destabilization in the later years of the twentieth century was the spread of liberation theology in Latin America. But when the movement was suppressed the Church under John Paul II once again entered a period of tranquility.

Since the ascension of Pope Francis, however, new controversies have bubbled to the surface. More “insider baseball” than anything that would concern those outside the faith, they include a recent decision by Francis not to meet with the Dalai Lama upon that worthy’s visit to Rome. Some have guessed the snub was due to ongoing negotiations with China aimed at normalizing relations between that country and the Church.

Another possible fissure is talk of a division between European bishops and those of Africa over the Church’s position on a range of social issues including those of divorce and remarriage. The more easygoing bishops from a post-Christian Europe could be headed for a clash with the more traditional-minded African bishops who have fewer empty pews. Here, Francis seems to be siding with the outsiders having just named a passel of new cardinals, most of whom come from the same backgrounds as their African brethren.

Efforts by past Popes such as Benedict XVI to reunite with schismatic wings of the Church who went their own way following the changes wrought by Vatican II have appeared to falter under Francis, who has seemed indifferent to matters of concern to them including allowance of the old form Latin Mass dear to traditionalists’ hearts.

That said, the Church has not been without challenges on the macro level as well.

Late in the nineteenth century, a new secularism borne of science and expanding human knowledge gained strength at the expense of traditional Christian teachings. At first, challenges of fact such as evolution and the origin of the universe seemed threatening but soon proved compatible with the Church’s teachings. Far more formidable would be new philosophical and social movements such as Communism and then fascism which proved attractive to Europe’s desperate underclasses. They were eventually defeated but from their ashes arose an even more sinister force: that of political correctness, a conglomeration of radical positions covering everything from feminism to conservationism all made to appear benign under a cloak of humanitarianism stripped of religious context.

This sugar coating of seeming humanitarianism has fooled many about the altruistic nature of the movement, much of which comes under the umbrella of “social justice.” In a remarkably short time, once infected with the PC germ, even the most venerable of institutions with hundreds of years of historical experience will jettison it all in favor of the new radicalism. As of this writing, only the Catholic Church has held out against the PC movement, positioning itself to repeat its service of preserving Western civilization through a new dark age. But now, with Pope Francis, the comforting knowledge that sanity might prevail in some part of the world has been, for some, cast in doubt.

Displaying evidence that he has at least been partially captured by the PC movement, Francis is invoking controversy either where none existed before or that had been thought settled. His comment early in his pontificate about “who am I to judge” when asked about homosexuality alarmed many as well as given hope to a “homophile” movement that promotes chastity and opposes same-sex marriage but embraces homosexuality as a gift from God — a position that was hinted at when notes from a recent synod were released prematurely.

Francis has also shown solidarity with political correctness by showing an intemperate willingness to cross the line from spiritual affairs to those of politics by supporting the Church’s stand on illegal immigration, global warming, and income inequality– all aspects of the Church’s social teaching to be sure but also of the social justice movement that invokes the ghost of the old liberation theology of the 1970s.

Whether any of these internal controversies manage to break out into discussion in the wider world depends on Pope Francis. But aided and abetted by a press corps eager to nudge the Church (as the last institution holding out against the PC steamroller) in the right direction, the pontiff could very well succumb to the promise of praise and adulation from that quarter. Human nature being what it is, the Church could very well be entering a new era of internal tumult and debate.

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What Christians Should and Should Not Judge

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 - by Paul Cooper

Judge Not

Christians often live in one extreme or the other on hot-button topics. One example would be judging. Christians have long been known and labeled as “judgmental.” So today, most evangelical Christians are so afraid of that label that they refuse to judge anything. Matthew 7:1, which says to “judge not lest ye be judged,” is the most well-known verse among even the most non-church going person out there.

But our fear of being judgmental has led us to a warped view of judging. There are definitely ways in which we should not judge, but you may be surprised to know there are times where Christians actually should judge. How do we know when to do it and when not? Let’s let the Bible guide us on that. 

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Newsweek Throws the First Stone

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

500-Newsweek-cover

In the Gospel of John, we read a story where a group of Jewish Torah teachers and Pharisees (members of a legalistic sect of Judaism) bring to Jesus a woman whom they caught in adultery, asking Him what punishment He thinks the woman deserves. Masterfully — as He always did — Jesus answers the scholars with a simple, yet profound statement:  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NIV).

Recently, Newsweek featured a cover article on the Bible in which author Kurt Eichenwald — not a Biblical scholar but a business writer with a clear agenda — lets forth on how Christians misinterpret the Bible. In his piece, Eichenwald throws the first stone, not even pretending to mask an agenda against conservative Biblical scholarship:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

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Why All French Jews Should Leave for Israel

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - by P. David Hornik

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In 2014, the year before the murder rampages at the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher supermarket in Paris, about seven thousand French Jews (out of a community of about half a million) emigrated to Israel.

With Muslim and other antisemitic harassment and violence constantly intensifying in France, that was twice the number of the previous year, and a record high.

Even before this month’s terror attacks, a higher number of French Jewish immigrants to Israel was expected for 2015. Now, after the attacks, a higher number yet is expected, possibly fifteen thousand. There is even talk of the Jews leaving France—mainly for Israel—altogether.

Meanwhile it’s reported that:

An unprecedented 15,000 soldiers and police officers have been mobilized in France to protect potential sites from terrorist attacks, of whom one third have been stationed at Jewish schools and synagogues for 24-hour-a-day supervision.

Five thousand police officers will guard 717 Jewish institutions, in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks that killed 17 people, including four Jews at a Paris kosher supermarket.

And in a speech after the attacks, French prime minister Manuel Valls said:

How is it possible to accept that France…how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”?… How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?

…We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.

On the one hand, one can ask whether sending one’s children to a school that has to be guarded round-the-clock by seven or eight soldiers and police officers is much of a way to live. On the other hand, one could ask, in light of the protective measures and Valls’s words: should France be given another chance, before Jews give up on it?

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70 Years Later, a New Solution to the Same Old Problems

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

#shabbatshalom #Paris #JeSuisJuif

A photo posted by Shosh (@slmgpix) on

I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.

Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.

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How to Understand the Anti-Semitism Embedded in Wagner’s Music

Monday, January 12th, 2015 - by David P. Goldman
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Mosaic Magazine opened an important dimension in the old debate about Wagner’s anti-Semitism with Nathan Shields’ January essay, “Wagner and the Jews.” Shields argues that Wagner’s music itself has anti-Jewish implications, an important riposte to the usual excuse that Wagner harbored Jew-hatred despite his great artistry. Shields argues rather that Wagner’s anti-Semitism and his music are of the same ilk. That is a breakthrough, but only that: Shields, whose own music offers the sort of atonality that most modern listeners abhor, knows that something is amiss in Wagner’s music but does not know what it is.

Now Edward Rothstein, a New York Times critic, has responded to Shields’ essay with a claim that Wagner’s anti-Semitism is “metaphysical.” That gets rather far afield. Wagner’s anti-Semitism is not “metaphysical” at all. It is musical, and must be understood in musical terms.

It can be put quite simply: Wagner is a neo-pagan, and paganism is self-worship. Neo-paganism is narcissism, the glorification of the impulse in place of obligation. In place of Beethoven’s celebrated epigraph to the Quartet Op. 135, “Es Muss Sein!” (It must be), Wagner insists that it can be whatever he wants. Music proceeds in time, and classical composition preceding Wagner uniquely achieved an ordering of time that bespeaks necessity: goal-oriented motion towards a desired conclusion. The journey to the goal may take detours, encounter surprises, and evoke suspense as well as humor, but it must reach its conclusion. Classical music was conceived to portray in sensuous terms the Christian journey to salvation. The great Ashkenazic Jewish cantors used the mechanism of Western music to evoke the reversal of time’s arrow, for redemption in Judaism looks backward as well as forward.

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