- It ain’t necessarily so
- Whither young Evangelicals?
- American hilarity
- Worse than “fake news”?
- Hollywood for ugly people
- History rhymes
- The banality of hypocrisy
- American Christianity
For many years, major U.S. institutions ranging from the Pentagon to the 9/11 Commission have been pushing the line that Iran secretly cooperated with Al Qaeda both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the evidence for those claims remained either secret or sketchy, and always highly questionable.
In early November, however, the mainstream media claimed to have its “smoking gun”—a CIA document written by an unidentified Al Qaeda official and released in conjunction with 47,000 never-before-seen documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The Associated Press reported that the Al Qaeda document “appears to bolster U.S. claims that Iran supported the extremist network leading up to the September 11 terror attacks.” The Wall Street Journal said the document “provides new insights into Al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, suggesting a pragmatic alliance that emerged out of shared hatred of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
NBC News wrote that the document reveals that, “at various points in the relationship… Iran offered Al Qaeda help in the form of ‘money, arms’ and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon in exchange for striking American interests in the Gulf,” implying that Al Qaeda had declined the offer. Former Obama National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, writing for The Atlantic, went even further, asserting that the document includes an account of “a deal with Iranian authorities to host and train Saudi-Al Qaeda members as long as they have agreed to plot against their common enemy, American interests in the Gulf region.”
But none of those media reports were based on any careful reading of the document’s contents. The 19-page Arabic-language document, which was translated in full for TAC, doesn’t support the media narrative of new evidence of Iran-Al Qaeda cooperation, either before or after 9/11, at all. It provides no evidence whatsoever of tangible Iranian assistance to Al Qaeda. On the contrary, it confirms previous evidence that Iranian authorities quickly rounded up those Al Qaeda operatives living in the country when they were able to track them down, and held them in isolation to prevent any further contact with Al Qaeda units outside Iran.
What it shows is that the Al Qaeda operatives were led to believe Iran was friendly to their cause and were quite taken by surprise when their people were arrested in two waves in late 2002. It suggests that Iran had played them, gaining the fighters’ trust while maximizing intelligence regarding Al Qaeda’s presence in Iran ….
(Gareth Porter, Translated Doc Debunks Narrative of Al Qaeda-Iran “Alliance”)
It’s not just “the t’ings dat yo’ li’ble to read in de Bible,” that “ain’t necessarily so.”
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) September 26, 2017
I believe the “this” Douthat refers to is this, which I read when it was new and refer to regularly. It recounts the intramural debate within Roman Catholicism on whether the American Project is compatible with Christianity.
[A]s far as I can tell, where young evangelicals are headed is simply out of evangelicalism. They have been, as Jared C. Wilson recently wrote, theologically and spiritually orphaned by pastors and other Christian leaders who were willing to entertain them and occasionally to hector them but who had no interest whatsoever in Christian discipleship. Millions of today’s young evangelicals have been utterly betrayed by a generation of pastors who could pontificate about how essential sexual purity is while simultaneously insisting that every real Christian should vote for Donald Trump, supporting their claims by a random handful of Bible verses wrenched from their context and utterly severed from the great arc of biblical story without which no piece of scriptural teaching can make sense. As I noted here, they cannot even distinguish a penitent from an impenitent sinner — that is how thoroughly they have emptied themselves of moral and spiritual understanding.
And yes: betrayed is precisely the word. A great  many evangelical leaders have betrayed their young followers and congregants — and, equally, betrayed the theological and spiritual inheritance they received from their mothers and fathers in the faith. They exchanged a rich and truly evangelical birthright for a cold pottage of vague moral uplift and cultural resentment. Verily, they have their reward.
So if young evangelicals are leaving evangelicalism, where are they going? Not many, I think, will head for complete unbelief, but some will; a great many will drift further and further into moralistic therapeutic deism, which will offer them very little but, on the plus side, will ask even less from them; a smaller but still significant number will head for the older liturgical traditions, either for aesthetic or theological reasons.
There will of course continue to be vibrant congregations that define themselves as evangelical, but fewer and fewer as the years go by, I think. Most churches that would claim the label have abandoned their historic mission, and the historic Christian faith, no matter what their explicit theological formularies might say. (This, for instance, is simple idolatry, served up straight, no chaser.) As my old friend and long-time colleague Mark Noll has long contended, evangelicalism at its heart a renewal movement within orthodox Christianity, and such renewal will continue — but not in the forms that some of us have grown accustomed to over the past half-century. Renewal will need to find new strategies, new institutions. Some corpses can’t be revived.
I’m not going to second-guess Jacobs on this powerful indictment, which is that of a loving but disappointed son (look at those last three sentences). It’s consistent with his suggestion that “large numbers of these people who identify as ‘evangelicals’ are really just whites who watch Fox News and who consider themselves religious.”
To the Jesus-loving-but-disenthralled evangelicals, young and old, I say “come and see” what Orthodox Christianity is. Don’t stop with Anglicanism and Roman Catholic; go all the way. And do give it “a months of Sundays” so the likely shock wears off. (If you’re lucky, you’ll walk in and in moments say “I’m home.” Likelier you’ll say “well, that was certainly different” and “What was that?! It was soooooo ‘not about me’!”)
Rod Dreher, also Orthodox, is concerned that you not come for the wrong reasons or with utopian expectations:
I’ll end with this summary for Evangelical readers:
- Do not give up on Christianity because the Evangelical pastors and lay leaders you’ve grown up loving and respecting have failed.
- Do not give up on Evangelicalism for this reason, either. You will not find a church whose leadership is free from failure.
- If you think you’ve reached the end of the road in Evangelicalism, then yes, explore Orthodoxy and/or Catholicism — but see No. 2.
- Make no decisions driven by anger, disgust, or high emotion.
- Do not idealize the older traditions. They will break your heart at some point.
- Don’t demonize them either. They will lift you up at some point in ways nothing else can.
- Take responsibility for your own spiritual life. Be very, very clear that staying in a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist church is unacceptable, because it will ultimately lead to apostasy. If you were raised Christian in America, no matter what your church, you probably have come to expect that religion will cater to you. That’s wrong. Wherever you settle, make sure it’s in a church that reaches into the depths of historic Christianity, that calls you out of yourself, and that stands in opposition to the post-Christian times in profound ways.
A company curried favor with advanced thinkers by commissioning for Manhattan’s financial district the “Fearless Girl” bronze statue, which exalts female intrepidity in the face of a rampant bull (representing (1) a surging stock market or (2) toxic masculinity). Then the company paid a $5 million settlement, mostly for paying 305 female executives less than men in comparable positions.
That’s one of George Will’s entries in “Another Year of American Hilarity.” Another:
In more-progressive-than-thou Oregon, where you can get state-subsidized gender reassignment surgery at age 15 without parental permission, the legislature made 21 the age at which adults can buy cigarettes.
But my favorite, if only for how it let slip the smug self-interest behind some lefty virtue-signaling, is this:
In toney and oh-so-progressive Malibu, Calif., the city council voted to become a sanctuary city. The councilwoman who made the motion for protecting illegal immigrants said: “Our city depends on a Hispanic population to support our comfortable lifestyle.”
Truth, dat. If you can’t read between those lines, you’re hopeless.
Forget “fake news.” Here’s the real journalism scandal:
The president tweeted something so we have to drop whatever we’re doing and learn all about it. At what point is the media able to say: this is something not worth thinking about? I don’t think it has that ability.
— Sarah Pulliam Bailey (@spulliam) November 22, 2017
Daniel Drezner has a similar take:
My memory of 2017 can be boiled down to the following news cycle:
- Trump does something counterproductive to U.S. interests;
- Experts across the political spectrum point out the stupidity of what Trump just did;
- The media reports on what Trump’s base thinks about the stupid thing;
- Trump tweets about it;
- Another prominent figure is brought down by a harassment scandal.
It’s not exactly the most chipper of times.
Still, Drezner found three things for which to be thankful in 2017:
- The global economy is performing well.
- The American public has largely rejected Trump’s illiberalism.
- There will be a third season of “The Good Place.”
Maybe the joke is right: Washington really is Hollywood for ugly people.
The product of this sexual counterrevolution will be a combination of:
(a) the same impoverished permissiveness as of old; and
(b) intense sexual paranoia (limiting interaction between sexes, consent forms, non-disclosure agreements, denunciations, etc.).
— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) November 21, 2017
So far, I’d have to agree with Ahmari. It seems to me that the only people calling for sexual continence are we who were calling for it before the current frenzy. See below, for instance.
Having completed my Summa Contra Moore, I intend to back off explaining what’s wrong with Roy Moore, but I may provide links to information or analysis by others, such as
- Roy Moore campaign refuses to substantiate claims about accuser
- What if Roy Moore is right?
- Moore campaign attempts to discredit Beverly Young accusations
Those last two could be classified as “exculpatory,” by the way, though I still think—well, there I go again! I’m trying not to tell you what I think.
In a similar vein, here’s President Trump and accusations of sexual misconduct: The complete list from the Amazon Jeff Bezos lying fake news Washington Post.
And from Rod Dreher, a rambling jeremiad about how Evangelical Republicans are defining deviancy down.
— Alan Jacobs (@ayjay) November 22, 2017
Prediction: History rhymes. Around 2037, with President Chelsea Clinton, Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, and “Nones” having risen to about 60% of the population, Evangelicals (or the motley crew passing for evangelical) will call for Donald Trump to resign.
Joe Barton, not the Supreme Court, is the reason conservatives lost on same-sex marriage.
— Matthew Walther (@matthewwalther) November 22, 2017
In case you know nothing about Joe Barton, here’s a
nice summary of his adulterous misbehavior (ain’t nuthin’ nice about it).
Barton is not a leading culture warrior of the right—that’s not the point, I think. He is a mainstream “conservative” by today’s standards, running on pro forma nostrums about “family values” as he cheated on his second wife, apparently with multiple women.
That was the state of marriage in America that made a non-positivist, natural law conception of marriage seem, in the mouths of Attorneys General who tried to defend statutes enacted in saner times, like a mean-spirited refusal to invite gays and lesbians to the orgy.
“Among the principal problems of American Christianity is that it finds America altogether too interesting.” — Paul Griffiths
— Wesley Hill (@wesleyhill) November 22, 2017
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)
There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)