Friday, 2/20/15

  1. Christianity=Christianity, Islam=Religion
  2. National Prayeriness Breakfast again
  3. How are Christians saved (& Copts damned)?
  4. The blindness of the WEIRD
  5. Ees outrage! (But may I ask a question or two?)


Take a closer look for example at another much-discussed recent statement by President Obama about terrorism, his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. The president’s claim that “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ” ignited a major ruckus. The fuss obscured something more remarkable in the speech, which is that there was no bookend reference to “terrible deeds in the name of Islam.” Instead, in every place where the word “Islam” might have been expected, the word “religion” was substituted. Thus, “we see a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.” Thus, “we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion—any religion—for their own nihilistic ends.” Thus, most strikingly, the group that calls itself the Islamic State, referred to only by the acronym ISIL, is condemned as a “a brutal, vicious death cult” that “carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism,” and does so “in the name of religion.”

When mention of the Islamic inspirations of terrorists becomes truly inescapable, administration spokespersons will emphatically insist that their actions do not represent the true Islam. At times, the president has baldly claimed that “ISIL is not Islamic.” That locution soon collapsed of its own ludicrousness. As Graeme Wood details in his new cover story for The Atlantic, ISIL is nothing if not Islamic ….

(David Frum, H/T Rod Dreher) To make it worse, the White House Wednesday “condemned” the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians by Islamic terrorists with this sanitized pablum:

The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists … We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and our support to the Egyptian government and people as they grieve for their fellow citizens.

(CBS-DC, emphasis added) No Christian victims. No Islamic murderers. And the bullshit adjective “cowardly.”

The 9/11 Commission Report — the one that the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration are continuing to redact 28 pages from — said clearly that in order to fight the threat, we have to be willing to name it, to call it by its religious content, which is Islamic. That is not to demean all Muslims as terrorists. But it is to point out what is plainly the truth: that almost all terrorists in the world today are Muslims.

(Rod Dreher) I don’t know whether the 9/11 Commission Report is right, but I’m very curious about why Obama apparently thinks why tap-dancing around the name of Islam is a better way of fighting Islamic terrorism. This is not a rhetorical question or an Obama derangement in disguise. What the Administration up to with the coyness?


Speaking of the National Prayeriness Breakfast, Terry Mattingly noted the remarkable absence of inquiry by mainstream media about whether the President’s implied equivalence between the Crusades and ISIS was off-base historically, supposed offensiveness aside. That strikes me as a good question, and one on which the good ole’ internet came to fill the gap left by MSM.

Also noted: Darrell Waltrip (or some such NASCAR personage) testified that he had to get off his high horse and down on his knees to meet Jesus. Moments later, POTUS said Christians needed to get off their high horse simpliciter. Mattingly wondered whether “high horse” was in Obama’s prepared text or whether he ad libbed it to give the back of the Presidential hand to Waltrip’s flavor of Christianity, or at least it’s indecorous utterance at our great national civil religion Prayeriness love-fest.


How are Christians saved? By faith in Christ, or by doctrinal orthodoxy? Are we saved by faith alone, or by an exact articulation of the Protestant doctrine of justification?

Jordan Cooper, challenging an überBaptist crackpot who pronounced the Coptic martyrs hellbound heretics and branded fellow Baptist Russell Moore a dangerous wussy for not proclaiming that from the rooftops.

The back of the fundy hand for ecumenical solidarity when there was a teachable moment, I guess.


A speech given by a Department of State official four years into the occupation of Iraq condemned those “who try to achieve their goals through the use of violence.” His target was Sunni and Shi’ite partisans. Journalist Rami Khoury remarked on the speech: “as if the US had not used weapons when invading Iraq.” The myth of religious violence works so that secular violence just doesn’t seem to count as violence. As I illustrate in the book, one of the primary motivating myths behind the spread of secular social order—by military means if necessary—is the idea that only secular social orders successfully solve the problem of religious violence. So the US spends more on its military than all the other nations of the world combined, but we are much more interested in talking about someone else’s violence. Despite all the current talk about drastic budget cuts, the military budget is off limits, in part because our violence isn’t violence. It goes by other, more honorable, names, like peacemaking and patriotism.

(William Cavanaugh, author of The Myth of Religious Violence) H/T Rod Dreher, who pulls together a lot of helpful information on how, in our WEIRDness, we miss much of reality. One thread Dreher pulls in is this from Mars Hill Audio’s Ken Myers:

William Cavanaugh (The Myth of Religious Violence) once quipped that the really interesting question is not what caused the politicization of Islam, but what encouraged the “religionization” of Christianity. Western Christians have largely embraced the liberal understanding of the separate spheres of religious and secular. But that configuration is not theologically neutral, contrary to what liberal pundits and politicians may believe. As Oliver O’Donovan has pointed out (The Desire of the Nations), for most of Western history, the corresponding term for “secular” was not “religious” or “sacred,” but “eternal.” And they were corresponding terms, not opposites. The secular, “this passing age,” was not a religion-free zone, but an era which had to be ordered in light of eternity.

The modern redefinition of “religion” and “the secular” is at the root of many of our contemporary crises and confusions. It is not a “neutral” definition, and should be contested at every opportunity. I’m glad that many have taken issue with the White House’s rhetorical policy on this matter, but this is a problem deeper than political correctness.

(Emphasis added)

This may start to answer the question I posed at the end of Item 1: The Obama administration is WEIRD, and may be less willing to call out specific religions because “religion” is just a generic category with some superficial variations.


Michigan doctor refuses care for lesbian couple’s newborn baby, citing religious objection

My immediate reaction on seeing it Thursday morning was “Oh, sh*t no! How unhelpful is this?!”

I read the story. After some thought, I came up with a lame, visceral scenario that might have run through the doctor’s mind (I won’t bother you with it; it’s speculative at best), but I cannot yet conceive of any well-considered religious objection to treating this 6-day-old child “of” a lesbian couple (any more than I can countenance the murder of a child in utero because his father is a rapist).

But outrage can darken reason oftener than it enlightens. Let’s cut the story off after the bare facts and before the description of the couple’s reactions:

Last September when the expectant mothers first met Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville. She was recommended by their midwife.

“We were really happy with her,” Krista said. “The kind of care she offered, we liked her personality, she seemed pretty friendly. She seemed pretty straight up with us.”

The Contrerasas were told to make an appointment with Roi once Bay arrived. The baby was born at home and when she was six days old – they went in.

But instead of seeing Dr. Roi,  another doctor greeted them.

“The first thing Dr. Karam said was ‘I’ll be your doctor, I’ll be seeing you today because Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won’t be able to care for Bay,” Jami said.

So Dr. Roi didn’t abandon Bay, or refuse treatment in an emergency, but arranged for another doctor to see her. I’ve now poked around the web a bit, and while there’s plenty of outrage, nobody seems able to identify any harm the baby suffered. Or what harm the couple suffered except to their feelings.

I would steer clear of an odd-ball like Dr. Roi if I was looking for someone to treat a child or grandchild. But consider a few questions to bring things down from the abstract level of “discrimination is wrong” (lots of things are wrong; I take comfort that they’ll be set right when Christ comes to judge) to something more concrete:

  • What harm did the baby suffer?
  • What harm did the parents suffer beyond experiencing concretely that some people disapprove of them, or their purported marriage, or of same-sex couples having children by techo-wizardry, or of artificial insemination by donor generally, or something that was involved here? (Dr. Roi isn’t talking, citing patient confidentiality. That she recused because the couple was lesbian strikes me as conjecture quickly becoming “fact.”)
  • Do we want to compel the Dr. Rois of the world to treat patients in non-emergencies against their (frankly baffling) conscientious objections?
  • Why should Dr. Roi be punished (beyond what the bad publicity has done)?
  • What penalty should be imposed on someone like Dr. Roi?

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.