Wednesday, 8/27/14

  1. Progressive (im)moral imperialism
  2. Kenny G in brown skin
  3. Justification versus restoration
  4. No room for Christians in populist conservatism
  5. Jihad for Dummies


Following up on one item in my last entry:

Reno believes the script can change, but only if we spend more time “speaking frankly about marriage and family, the dignity of work, and the nobility of faith.” That turn is obvious to anyone who has examined the facts of the black family, especially the number of African-American teenagers with no father in the home.

But this is precisely the script that liberals refuse. It posits the traditional family as a bulwark against disorder, and it maintains that boys need mothers and fathers. Honest inquiry would force them to acknowledge that the “experiments” in family structure of the last half-century prove not an advance, but a disaster.

(Mark Bauerlein) This is more evidence that the professed care of liberals for the poor is mostly window dressing; the real concern (and I’d say the script changed in 1972) is social and sexual revolution.

We see it, too, in America’s progressive moral imperialism in the developing world.

History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. Repeat after me: “Babylon the Great is fallen!


He [Obama] invoked the American family last week. It’s a lie, brother. You’ve got to be able to tell the truth to the American people. We’re not a family. We’re a people. We’re a nation. And a nation always has divisions. You have to be able to speak to those divisions in such a way that, like FDR, like Lincoln, you’re able to somehow pull out the best of who we are, given the divisions. You don’t try to act as if we have no divisions and we’re just an American family, with the poor getting treated in disgraceful ways and the rich walking off sipping tea, with no accountability at all ….

That’s Cornel West, interviewed by Salon about his thoughts on the president’s being “a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. . . . It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.”

(David Mills) Ouch! Cornel West is very smart and worth listening to – critically, of course.


Reformed theology focuses on forensic justification, whereas the mystical theology of the Orthodox Church focuses on restoration to God through healing of the darkened soul alienated from Him. These are two very different models, but not really equal, because one can have faith in Christ’s sacrifice, but still not be healed and restored.

(Abbot Tryphon) Amen to that!

If Abbot Tryphon didn’t know that before, maybe he picked it up a weekend or two ago during a visit to his monastery by Robin Phillips, who came to Orthodoxy from Reformed Christianity.


Red State cofounder Erick Erickson said if he had it to do over again, he would not include a comments section on the site, because it brings out the worst in people. In fact, he says in this blog posting there, his Christian faith is increasingly clashing with conservative populism.

Increasingly one wonders if how much place is left within movement conservatism for morally serious conservative Christians.

(Rod Dreher) Amen to that, too. Erickson’s example of conservative populist reaction to Ebola-infected missionary Dr. Brantly is an excellent current example.

I think Rod know that’s nothing brand new, as he reflects in how hard it has been to keep his own comment section edifying by moderating it.


Not only are there multiple Islamic faiths, but terrorist generally aren’t deeply steeped in or formed by any of them:

Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong.

Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric …but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.

Instead they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose. As Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010: “. . . what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world”. He described wannabe jihadists as “bored, under­employed, overqualified and underwhelmed” young men for whom “jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer . . . thrilling, glorious and cool”.

Or, as Chris Morris, the writer and director of the 2010 black comedy Four Lions – which satirised the ignorance, incompetence and sheer banality of British Muslim jihadists – once put it: “Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.”

(Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesmen, via Peter Leithart)

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.