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?
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?
“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.
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.”
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
I’m a Christian first, but my highest goal in writing is to craft a good story. Politically, I lean conservative.
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.
I’m from a small town in Maine called Greene Village. It boasts one stoplight that it does not quite need.
New York City area, but relocating to Indiana very soon.
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.
They can follow me on Twitter at @abbeybookaholic.
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.
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.
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
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. 
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.
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.
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.
…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.
“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:
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.
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):
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.
The hypocrisy of the intellectual elite is finally being called onto the cultural carpet. This past Tuesday, Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post observed: “There has been so much political turmoil among Republicans that it is easy to lose sight of the intellectual disarray on the left.” PJM’s Ed Driscoll quoted The Daily Beast‘s Lloyd Grove speaking of modern liberals: ”…Think aesthetics as politics, and academic credentials as peerage. Think of a latter-day Americanized version of Downton Abbey—where everyone knows his or her place, and our betters look best.”
It is amazing to see how quickly the liberal/socialist/Marxist wing of the political spectrum has imploded. Only one generation ago they donned tie-dye and preached “Damn The Man.” Today, their Gen-X children (Barack and Michelle included) have embodied The Man to their own damnation and that of the middle class, the working poor, and all those for whom they claim to care so much (at least during election season).
Driscoll cited Grove’s observation that contemporary liberals are living
…a world away from job-craving America, and light years from the mid-twentieth century Democratic Party.
Indeed, this gap gives added credence to Professor Fred Siegel’s critique that “today’s liberal gentry see the untamed middle classes as the true enemy,” …It’s not that the Democrats don’t know that they have a problem with the non-government employee middle class, but it’s just that they really are not bothered by it. As the New York Times framed the issue, “many in the party pay so little attention to white working-class men that it suggests they have effectively given up on converting them.”
I’m on the east coast this week and just gave a talk at Cornell University sponsored by the Program on Freedom and Free Societies. I spoke at one point about how those who think that Hollywood only cares about money don’t really know anything about Hollywood. I pointed out that religious pictures like this week’s indie release God is Not Dead are so routinely “surprise hits,” that it’s hard to figure out where the surprise is coming from. I also had some fun discussing how puzzled the New York Times was at the “surprise hit” Lone Survivor. How very odd, said the Times, or words to that effect. They couldn’t comprehend why audiences who had “stubbornly refused” to go to all the other movies about the war on terror, turned up to make this one a hit. One wanted to explain patiently, as to a child: Well, dear, it’s because all the other movies showed America as the bad guys, and this one showed us as the good guys, and the audience doesn’t want to be insulted by elitist claptrap. But the Times is not yet mature enough for that kind of information.
Anyway, when my Cornell talk was done, a leftist in the audience termed it “naive” and “bizarre.” (I doubt I was naive. I do try to be as bizarre as possible!) He said Hollywood was just a whore chasing after money.
The man spoke so long and said so many things that were untrue, that I couldn’t really respond concisely. But there is one thing I really wish I had said, and that is this. Making movies that make money isn’t being a whore. It’s called being in the movie business. It’s what movies are supposed to do. When your movies make money it means that you did something someone else liked instead of just preening yourself on your skills and insight. When your movies make money, it means they succeeded in doing what movies are supposed to do: entertaining an audience. There is, of course, absolutely nothing at all wrong with making a smaller movie for a smaller audience that makes less money. But to assume that making profitable movies makes you a whore is elitist in the extreme. It presumes that you have some higher wisdom that should be served over and above the wisdom of the ticket buyers. But in real life… no, you don’t.
Last week, alternative media mogul Glenn Beck announced that he was going to focus on “taking back” American culture through the power of nostalgia:
In the future, Glenn Beck’s focus is going to be more on influencing culture and less on politics and news. After all, news is only “what the culture allows,” he said in a recent interview with National Review’s Eliana Johnson.
…“Beck is nostalgic for an America of decades past, and his cultural projects will aim to resurrect and revive it,” Johnson writes. “It’s an America where duty trumped desire and Americans were bound together by a sort of civic religion created by that sense of duty. ‘I want to impact the culture in the way that people see good again,’ [Glenn] says.”
Beck’s goal is admirable, to a fault. The period he seeks to resurrect was one in which concepts like “good” and “duty” were defined by a Biblical religion, not a civic one. Any history student will tell you that Marx had his own take on the American Revolution; you can show someone Frank Capra movies until you’re blue in the face and they’re still going to see Mr. Smith as the ultimate community organizer if that’s their moral outlook.
As Amy Kenyon notes, there are pitfalls to what passes for nostalgia these days:
…the historical meanings and usages associated with nostalgia were finally mangled beyond recognition until its chief purpose became the performance of sentimentalism, the parceling out of discount memory via television, advertising, heritage theme parks, and souvenir markets, all aspects of what we might call the “nostalgia industry.” As such, nostalgia became kitsch, trivial and reactionary: hardly the stuff of a meaningful engagement with the past or the workings of memory.
Simply put: Glenn Beck needs to do more than embrace the facade of America, circa 1940. Beck needs to dig deeper, to America’s Biblical heritage, to understand what re-taking the culture truly means.
Vince Vitale, a philosopher and professor at Oxford University makes the surprising and bold claim in a new video that God is alive and well at the highest levels of academia.
Vitale excoriates the so-called “new atheists” who are “not engaged in current philosophical scholarship,” attributing their brand of atheism to the “old scholarship” at the academic level. Vitale said, “More recently, in the last fifty years or so, what we’ve had is a remarkable resurgence of professional philosophers who have thought long and hard about the evidence and have come to the conclusion that God exists. God is not dead. He is very much alive.”
He cites Quentin Smith, a contemporary philosopher who has published twelve books and over a hundred articles. Smith, an atheist, discussed in a paper in Philo in 2000 an assertion by non-theist philosopher Richard Gale:
If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith…”
Quentin Smith goes even further than Gale, saying that the non-theists would lose: “I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.”
In the paper Smith goes on the blast his fellow atheist philosophers for losing so much ground to the theists:
This philosophical failure (ignoring theism and thereby allowing themselves to become unjustified naturalists) has led to a cultural failure since theists, witnessing this failure, have increasingly become motivated to assume or argue for supernaturalism in their academic work, to an extent that academia has now lost its mainstream secularization.
Smith concludes that, “God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.
Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.
Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”
One comment, however, caught my eye.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in September of 2013 as “5 Falsehoods in Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months… Click here to see the top 25 so far and to advocate for your favorites in the comments.
Reza Aslan’s notorious interview with Lauren Green on Fox News has made him the toast of the liberal media, and his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth a massive bestseller. There’s just one problem: the book is lousy. It’s full of all of the empty portent of a bad B-movie screenplay (think Ben Hur as directed by Ed Wood), decades-old (and often discredited) scholarship breathlessly presented as brand-new discovery, and outright falsehoods foisted onto the unsuspecting reader, as Aslan manipulates facts to usher the reader to his predetermined conclusion.
Aslan arrogantly waved his credentials in Green’s face, and the media has eagerly taken up this particular cudgel for him: how dare Green question the prodigious scholar, the multi-degreed eminence, the dispassionate Muslim teller of truths about Christianity that are unpalatable to the racist, bigoted, Bible-thumping Islamophobes on Fox?
Matthew J. Franck, writing in First Things, noted that Aslan actually lied about his credentials to Green: he told her, “I am an expert with a Ph.D. in the history of religions. … I am a professor of religions, including the New Testament–that’s what I do for a living, actually. … To be clear, I want to emphasize one more time, I am a historian, I am a Ph.D. in the history of religions.” But he is not actually a Ph.D. in the “history of religions” at all; in reality, his Ph.D. is in sociology, and his dissertation was not on the New Testament at all, but on “Global Jihadism: a transnational social movement.”
Less often noted, however, is an even greater problem with Aslan’s obsessive citing of his credentials: degrees, particularly in this era of the politically correct stranglehold on academia, are no guarantee of knowledge, wisdom, or truth. Even if everything he had said to Green about his degrees had been true, it would confer on his book no presumption of accuracy or truth. There are plenty of fools with degrees, and plenty of geniuses without them. Aslan, from the looks of Zealot, is among the former – or at least he is hoping that his readers are. Here are five of this master scholar’s most egregious false statements:
He has defended this usage in interviews by claiming that that was the Roman name for the area during Jesus’ time. But in fact, Jesus lived not in first-century Palestine, but in first-century Judea, a place that no one called “Palestine.” The Romans renamed it “Palestine” after emptying the area of Jews after the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 A.D. Aslan’s usage is an anachronism, and given his venomous opposition to the state of Israel, perhaps a politically motivated one at that.
In the next few weeks leading up to Easter Sunday you can expect to hear more news about the Shroud of Turin — a mysterious piece of linen that millions of Catholics and other Christians believe is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
It was during Holy Week last year when the Shroud of Turin generated headlines around the globe. That was a result of Italian scientist and renowned Shroud researcher Giulio Fanti releasing his book, The Mystery of the Shroud.
Fanti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua in Italy. His 2013 research book scientifically debunked the infamous and controversial 1988 carbon-14 dating that supposedly “proved” the cloth only dated back to the Middle Ages — more specifically between the years 1260 and 1390.
Headlines such as: “Shroud of Turin is not a medieval forgery” were typical of what appeared across all media platforms especially on Good Friday, 2013.
Now in 2014, Professor Fanti has a new book (only in Italian at this moment) and the title translates into English as, Turin Shroud: First Century A.D.
According to the book’s press release, “The new dating methods are published in prestigious international journals and no one has yet pointed out methodological errors.”
This Shroud dating research project costing $75,000 (54,000 Euro) was funded by Padua University. The funding made it possible to “develop alternative methods of dating the Shroud based on mechanical and opto-chemical analyses after obvious calibration.”
Here is a more simple explanation of the dating methods if you are not a scientist.
NBC Los Angeles reported Tuesday that “a California college student and National Guard enlistee was captured Monday after an FBI investigation revealed a foiled plot to attack the Los Angeles subway system and plans to help al-Qaida.”
What could possibly have transformed a National Guard enlistee into someone who plotted a mass murder attack in the Los Angeles subway system on New Year’s Eve? What could have changed in Nicholas Michael Teausant’s mind and heart to make him want to dedicate his life not to defending Americans, but to killing them?
The answer is simple: Islam. Nicholas Michael Teusant now prefers to be called Ased Abdur-Raheem, although that name did not appear in a single one of the mainstream media reports published about his arrest (I found it on his Facebook page). The universal practice of the mainstream media is to refer to converts to Islam by their Muslim names if they do good things and are revered, beloved figures (think Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), and by their infidel names if they do evil in the name of Islam (think Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, aka Mujaahid Abu Hamza and Ismail ibn Abdullah, the jihad murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby on a London street; John Walker Lindh, the Marin County mujahid, who is now known as Suleyman al-Faris in his prison cell, where he is doing time for joining up with the Taliban in Afghanistan, etc.).
This is a real question.
Can a man marry a jinni female?
On Islam Shari`ah ResearchersAnswer
Wa `alaykum as-Salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother, thank you for your question that shows your interest in Islam.The question of whether a human may marry a jinni is a controversial one. There is no evidence from the Shari`ah that can be said to be authentic in that regard.
The majority of jurists are of the opinion that such a marriage is not lawful, but some jurists consider it to be lawful. The first opinion is the more correct to follow.
Allah Almighty says: ”And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.“ (Ar-Rum 30: 21)
He Almighty also says, ”O people! be careful of (your duty to) your Lord, Who created you from a single being and created its mate of the same (kind) and spread from these two, many men and women; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah, by Whom you demand one of another (your rights), and (to) the ties of relationship; surely Allah ever watches over you.“ (An-Nisaa’ 4: 1)
Yadda yadda yadda…
Anyway, the more correct opinion to follow in this regard is that it is not lawful for a human being to marry a jinni, for they are of different worlds.
In Al-Ashbah wa An-Nadha’r, Imam As-Suyuti, an eminent Shafi`i scholar, wrote: ”Answering the question ‘is it lawful for a human being to marry a jinni?’ Imad Ibn Yunus said, ‘Yes.’”
This question was also one of those that Sheikh Jamal Ad-Din Al-Esnawi posed to the supreme judge Sharaf Ad-Din Al-Barazi.
Sheikh Jamal asked the supreme judge “Is it lawful for a man to marry a female jinn? Contemplating Allah’s Words ”And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves ….“ (Ar-Rum 30: 21) I find that from among yourselves refers to that one’s mate or spouse is to be from the same kind as one, and this is a blessing from Almighty Allah. But if we supposed that this might be lawful, as Ibn Unus said in Sharh Al-Wajeiz, would the man in this case have the right to oblige his jinn wife to stick to home or not? Suppose also that he would dislike to see her in a form other than the human one; would he have the right to prevent her from incarnating in other forms?
Also, would the conditions required in a valid marriage contract be required in this case, also? For instance, would the jinn’s guardian’s approval be required? Would their marriage be acceptable according to the jinn laws? Suppose that once, he did not recognize her, for she was incarnating in a form different from that he usually sees her in, but she told him it was she. Would he believe her and thus could he make love to her? Would he also be required to provide her with food that the jinn eat, such as bones and the like?”
The supreme judge Sharaf Ad-Din Al-Barazi answered:
It is not lawful that members of human kind marry members of jinn kind. This is inferred from the following verses: “And Allah has made wives for you from among yourselves ….” (An-Nahl 16: 72) and “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves ….” (Ar-Rum 30: 21)
The exegetes say about these verses that the words from among yourselves in both verses refer to human kind; they may be paraphrased from your own kind or from your own nature.
These verses are analogous to the verse “Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves….” (At-Tawbah 9: 128), for from amongst yourselves here refers also to human kind.
Besides, Allah Almighty refers in His Book to the women who are lawful for men to marry: “O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts ….” (Al-Ahzab 33: 50) [What was applied to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) according to this verse is also applied to Muslim men in general.] Mind that it is juristically known that this verse also indicates that single women who are not related to one may also be marriageable to one.
Allah Almighty also refers in His Book to the women who are prohibited in marriage to one. Notice all this is about marriage to women of human nature. This is because there is no marriage between human beings and jinn. (The words of Sharaf Ad-Din Al-Barazi end here.)
Yadda yadda yadda… He’s being extremely thorough, isn’t he?
By analogy, we also find that it is prohibited to cross donkeys and horses, for this results in a hybrid different from horses, and this may, in turn, lead to the rarity of horses. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commented on those who do so by saying, “Those who do so are ignorant.” If so is the case with animals, it is with greater reason that it also be the case with marriage between humans and jinnis.
However, Abu `Uthman Sa`id ibn Al-`Abass Ar-Razi said in his book Al-Ilham wa Al-Waswasah that it was reported that some Yemeni people wrote to Imam Malik: “A male jinni has come to us and proposed to marry a young (human) woman saying, ‘I seek to stick to the right path by this proposal.’” Imam Malik answered, “I see that there is nothing wrong in doing so, but I dislike to expose this woman to a situation where she might be asked about her husband and she would answer, ‘It is a male jinni.’ This may lead to corruption among Muslims.”
In his book Akam Al-Murjan, Ash-Shabli, a Hanifi scholar, stated: Scholars are of two opinions regarding marriage between humans and jinn. One says it is unlawful and the other says it is lawful. The first view was adopted by a group of Hanbali scholars and was also reported in As-Seraji Fatwas. They cited as evidence in this respect Almighty Allah’s words ”And Allah has made wives for you from among yourselves….” (An-Nahl 16 72) and “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect“ (Ar-Rum 30: 21) They also cited as evidence in this regard a hadith to the effect that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prohibited marriage to jinns. The second point of view in this regard was reported to have been adopted by Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, and others.
There is, however, one exemption.
Fred Phelps Sr., a fierce opponent of homosexuality whose protests at military funerals prompted two federal laws, died early Thursday, his daughter Margie Phelps says. She didn’t give the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care. He was 84.
Phelps headed the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., and was occasionally involved in politics. He gained national prominence for organizing protests against gays and Jews, including at military funerals.
The Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is a small virulently homophobic, anti-Semitic hate group that regularly stages protests around the country, often several times a week. The group pickets institutions and individuals they think support homosexuality or otherwise subvert what they believe is God’s law.
Incorporated in 1967 as a not-for-profit organization, WBC considers itself an “Old School (or Primitive)” Baptist Church. WBC’s leader is Fred Phelps and several of his children and dozens of his grandchildren appear to constitute the majority of the group’s members. WBC has no official affiliation with mainstream Baptist organizations.
While WBC members have protested at Jewish institutions over the years, such institutions were not a major focus for the group until April 2009. Since then, WBC has targeted dozens of Jewish institutions around the country, from Israeli consulates to synagogues to Jewish community centers, distributing anti-Semitic fliers to announce planned protests at these sites. WBC has also been sending volumes (in some cases dozens over the course of a week) of faxes and emails with anti-Semitic and anti-gay messages to various Jewish institutions and individuals.
In addition, in April 2010, the group began mailing a virulently anti-Semitic DVD to Jewish organizations and leaders. The DVD also attacks President Obama, describing him as the anti-Christ, and is filled with anti-gay and anti-Catholic vitriol.
Well, guess what I did at the WTC?
If you were born in the middle of the 1960s, the Manson family imprinted themselves on your brain.
The girls looked like this.
I finally saw, up close, those (registered Democrat) Fred Phelps “family” members, with their “God Hates Fags” signs, outside the WTC memorial ceremony.
We wandered over to the location, knowing it was invitation only, but got as close as we could to the loudspeakers and giant TV, outside of Brown Brothers Harriman.
So did the Phelps gang.
I am not joking.
Same long straight brown hair, although mostly casually “up” in ponytails that morning.
And worst: the same creepy, post-orgasmic, beatific smile of every gnostic heretic; the one that says, “I know something you don’t know: God loves me SO much more than you.”
The cops told them to pack up. They put their signs back into the extra large black artist portfolio cases I now know they carry them in.
And the cops herded them away. Right past me.
So I stuck out my foot and tripped one of the girls.
Yeah, it felt fabulous.
She recovered herself, put her weird “I’m in a cult” smile back on and said, “Ha! Subtle!”
(This from a chick who’d been holding a “You will eat your babies” (?) sign.)
Her friend behind her, this old hag who looked like if the school librarian who’d been trapped in a fire, got in my face and with the most twisted expression you can imagine growled:
“You’ll go to hell for all your violence!”
“See you there,” I managed to croak.
images via The Guardian and ADL
My review of Jody Bottum’s important new book (An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Image Books, 2014) appeared today in The American Interest. An extract:
Joseph Bottum…examines post-Protestant secular religion with empathy, and contends that it gained force and staying power by recasting the old Mainline Protestantism in the form of catechistic worldly categories: anti-racism, anti-gender discrimination, anti-inequality, and so forth. What sustains the heirs of the now-defunct Protestant consensus, he concludes, is a sense of the sacred, but one that seeks the security of personal salvation through assuming the right stance on social and political issues. Precisely because the new secular religion permeates into the pores of everyday life, it sustains the certitude of salvation and a self-perpetuating spiritual aura. Secularism has succeeded on religious terms. That is an uncommon way of understanding the issue, and a powerful one.
If there’s one thing the rise of gay marriage has taught us, it’s how dramatically public opinion can shift in a short period of time. A poll of Minnesotans taken shortly after that state became the twelfth to legalize gay unions found a radical 18-point shift in opinion among respondents aged 50 to 64 in just a few months. Sixty-eight percent opposed gay marriage in February of 2013. By June, that dropped to 50%.
Recall that President Obama, radical leftist that he is, only “evolved” on the marriage issue less than two years ago. Such observations suggest that radical social ideas can rapidly become mainstream given the right circumstances.
So when actor Chris O’Dowd predicts that religion will one day be widely considered as offensive and unacceptable as racism, I don’t immediately write him off. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult”…
O’Dowd has told Britain’s GQ magazine: “For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird s**t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!’
While we may be a long way off from such a world, with the vast majority of Americans still claiming a religious affiliation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a radical shift toward the dystopia O’Dowd predicts.