Feast of St. Stephen

  1. Middle East Christians
  2. How dare a Baptist spokesman have integrity?
  3. How muddy are the waters now?
  4. Obama’s Russia Record
  5. Racist Cracker Litmus Test
  6. Potability Report


First Things

1

It’s fair to say the fate of Middle East Christians has not been the focus of Western leaders. Pope Francis has made statements about it, though not with the fervor you would think is deserved for men and women dying for their beliefs. Western Europe has largely been de-Christianized, and the Obama Administration has spoken up only rarely, perhaps out of concern that this would offend Muslims.

So it’s notable that this week it was left to Benjamin Netanyahu—the prime minister of the Jewish State of Israel—in his Christmas message to Christians around the world to state forthrightly what too many other Western leaders would prefer to ignore: The forces of intolerance and barbarism that pose a threat to all religions nonetheless “attack Christians with particular vehemence.”

(Wall Street Journal, Christmas in the Middle East)

Secondary Things

2

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is in trouble with some of his own constituents for opposing Donald Trump’s candidacy so resolutely.

Why? After running through various truths Moore voiced with painful clarity, Christine Emba of the Washington Post continues:

Really, what the majority of Moore’s statements have in common (apart from being, well, correct — at least according to traditional, values-first Christian teaching) is that they might offend those being criticized, the president-elect included. That, in turn, might result in — gasp — a loss of political power.

And that’s what his Christian critics seem to be responding to. “He’s going to have no access, basically, to President Trump,” was the observation of one of the pastors considering yanking Moore’s funding. Because — and how did we miss this? — access is now the end goal of Christians in Washington.

Some scholars argue that the rising number of people who have decided against affiliating with any religion is due to a rejection of how Christianity especially often finds itself amorally entangled with conservative politics.

But where Christian leaders should be seeking influence, especially in a rapidly secularizing society in which their views seem ever more countercultural, is in trying to remain a respected moral voice worth engaging with — not by setting aside their most distinctive values in a grab for shifting political power. The most persuasive religious leaders will be those who, like Russell Moore, remain distinguishable from everyone else. Attacking the most principled among themselves is an attack on Christians’ best chance for survival in the public square.

Tertiary Things

3

“Making everyone equal as an information source doesn’t work very well in practice,” …

“People aren’t necessarily getting the media literacy they need, so they’re just kind of panicking,” Ms. LaCapria said.

[Alan] Thicke’s death underlined this. In addition to those asking direct questions, thousands of users searched Snopes for confirmation of the actor’s demise.

“People think the death of a 69-year-old from a heart attack must be a hoax. That is how muddy the waters are now,” Ms. LaCapria said.

(David Streitfeld, For Fact-Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks)

4

James Howard Kunstler reviews the outgoing President’s tenure:

Finally, in foreign affairs, there is Obama’s mystifying campaign against the Russian Federation. The US had an agreement with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union that we would not expand NATO if they gave us a quantity of nuclear material that was in danger of falling into questionable hands in the disorder that followed the collapse. Russia complied. What did we do? We expanded NATO to include most of the former eastern European countries (except the remnants of Yugoslavia), and then under Obama, NATO began holding war games on Russia’s border. For what reason? The fictitious notion that Russia wanted to “take back” these nations — as if they needed to adopt a host of dependents that had only recently bankrupted the Soviet state. Any reasonable analysis would call these war games naked aggression by the West.

Then there was the 2014 US State Department-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected government and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych. Why? Because his government wanted to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union instead of an association with European Union. We didn’t like that and we decided to oppose it by subverting the Ukrainian government. In the violence and disorder that ensued, Russia took back the Crimea — which had been gifted to the former Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic (a province of Soviet Russia) one drunken night by the Ukraine-born Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. What did we expect after turning Ukraine into another failed state? The Crimean peninsula had been part of Russia for longer than the US had been a country. Its only warm water naval ports were located there. They held a referendum and the Crimean people voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia. So, President Obama decided to punish Russia with economic sanctions.

The idiotic behavior of the US toward Russia in these matters led to the most dangerous state of relations between the two since the heart of the Cold War. It culminated in the ridiculous campaign this fall to blame Russia for the defeat of Hillary Clinton. And here we are.

I didn’t vote for Hillary or Donald Trump (I wrote-in David Stockman). I’m not happy to see Donald Trump become president. But I’ve had enough of Mr. Obama. He put up a good front. He seemed congenial and intelligent. But in the end, he appears to be a kind of stooge for the darker forces in America’s overgrown bureaucratic Deep State racketeering operation. Washington truly is a swamp that needs to be drained. Barack Obama was not one of the alligators in it, but he was some kind of bird with elegant plumage that sang a song of greeting at every sunrise to the reptiles who stirred in the mud. And now he is flying away.

5

Don’t forget now: you’re a racist if you don’t praise Black Lives Matter, even though their “guiding principles” are far more radical than the vast majority of people realize, e.g.:

  • We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, and especially “our” children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.
  • We are committed to fostering a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or, rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they disclose otherwise.

Adiaphora

6

It may mark me as less than American, or at least less than an American man, that in my relatively late in life gravitation toward distilled beverages, I liked Irish Whiskey, didn’t like Scotch, and even more did not like Bourbon.

In the case of Scotch, that was a tendency. Cutty Sark tasted like Listerine, but I tried much better Scotch than that. And there were some, like Aberlour, that I liked a lot.

But in the case of Bourbon, it was brand-after-brand relentlessly that I didn’t like. I wanted to like them. I wanted to praise an historic product of the gracious state to my south. I wanted to have a reason to buy American. But I couldn’t find one.

Until Basil Hayden’s. I’m reminded of that as the Nativity Fast ends and I open a new bottle (only my second ever) on Christmas night. Not cheap but not “super premium,” either.

Judging from the Aberlour and Basil Hayden’s websites, it looks as if I might be violating some absurd federal law if I went into detail, but if you’re over 21, you, too, can solemnly so swear or affirm, access the website and assess what’s different.

* * * * *

“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.