Thursday, July 28, 2016

Christian Realism: Bonaventure and History by Pope Benedict

by David Pence

(From a papal audience given March 10, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI on how the Franciscan saint, Bonaventure (1221-1274), dealt with a movement that divided world history into ages -- leaving a last modern era in which spiritualists liberated from past Christian traditions would be truly free for a new age of innovations):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week I spoke of the life and personality of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This morning I would like to continue my presentation, reflecting on part of his literary opus and on his doctrine.
As I have already said, among St Bonaventure's various merits was the ability to interpret authentically and faithfully St Francis of Assisi, whom he venerated and studied with deep love.

In a special way, in St Bonaventure's day a trend among the Friars Minor known as the "Spirituals" held that St Francis had ushered in a totally new phase in history and that the "eternal Gospel", of which Revelation speaks, had come to replace the New Testament. This group declared that the Church had now fulfilled her role in history. They said that she had been replaced by a charismatic community of free men guided from within by the Spirit, namely the "Spiritual Franciscans." This group's ideas were based on the writings of a Cistercian Abbot, Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202. In his works he affirmed a Trinitarian rhythm in history. He considered the Old Testament as the age of the Fathers, followed by the time of the Son, the time of the Church. The third age was to be awaited, that of the Holy Spirit. The whole of history was thus interpreted as a history of progress:  from the severity of the Old Testament to the relative freedom of the time of the Son, in the Church, to the full freedom of the Sons of God in the period of the Holy Spirit. This, finally, was also to be the period of peace among mankind, of the reconciliation of peoples and of religions. Joachim of Fiore had awakened the hope that the new age would stem from a new form of monasticism. Thus it is understandable that a group of Franciscans might have thought it recognized St Francis of Assisi as the initiator of the new epoch and his Order as the community of the new period the community of the Age of the Holy Spirit that left behind the hierarchical Church in order to begin the new Church of the Spirit, no longer linked to the old structures.

Hence they ran the risk of very seriously misunderstanding St Francis' message, of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. This error entailed an erroneous vision of Christianity as a whole.

St Bonaventure, who became Minister General of the Franciscan Order in 1257, had to confront grave tension in his Order precisely because of those who supported the above-mentioned trend of the "Franciscan Spirituals" who followed Joachim of Fiore. To respond to this group and to restore unity to the Order, St Bonaventure painstakingly studied the authentic writings of Joachim of Fiore, as well as those attributed to him and, bearing in mind the need to present the figure and message of his beloved St Francis correctly, he wanted to set down a correct view of the theology of history. St Bonaventure actually tackled the problem in his last work, a collection of conferences for the monks of the studium in Paris. He did not complete it and it has come down to us through the transcriptions of those who heard him. It is entitled Hexaëmeron, in other words an allegorical explanation of the six days of the Creation. The Fathers of the Church considered the six or seven days of the Creation narrative as a prophecy of the history of the world, of humanity. For them, the seven days represented seven periods of history, later also interpreted as seven millennia. With Christ we should have entered the last, that is, the sixth period of history that was to be followed by the great sabbath of God. St Bonaventure hypothesizes this historical interpretation of the account of the days of the Creation, but in a very free and innovative way. To his mind two phenomena of his time required a new interpretation of the course of history.

The first:  the figure of St Francis, the man totally united with Christ even to communion with the stigmata, almost an alter Christus, and, with St Francis, the new community he created, different from the monasticism known until then. This phenomenon called for a new interpretation, as an innovation of God whichappeared at that moment.

The second:  the position of Joachim of Fiore who announced a new monasticism and a totally new period of history, going beyond the revelation of the New Testament, demanded a response. As Minister General of the Franciscan Order, St Bonaventure had immediately realized that with the spiritualistic conception inspired by Joachim of Fiore, the Order would become ungovernable and logically move towards anarchy. In his opinion this had two consequences:
The first, the practical need for structures and for insertion into the reality of the hierarchical Church, of the real Church, required a theological foundation. This was partly because the others, those who followed the spiritualist concept, upheld what seemed to have a theological foundation.
The second, while taking into account the necessary realism, made it essential not to lose the newness of the figure of St Francis.

How did St Bonaventure respond to the practical and theoretical needs? Here I can only provide a very basic summary of his answer and it is in certain aspects incomplete:

1. St Bonaventure rejected the idea of the Trinitarian rhythm of history. God is one for all history and is not tri-theistic. Hence history is one, even if it is a journey and, according to St Bonaventure, a journey of progress.

2. Jesus Christ is God's last word in him God said all, giving and expressing himself. More than himself, God cannot express or give. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Christ himself says of the Holy Spirit:  "He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14: 26), and "he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16: 15). Thus there is no loftier Gospel,there is no other Church to await. Therefore the Order of St Francis too must fit into this Church, into her faith and into her hierarchical order.

3. This does not mean that the Church is stationary, fixed in the past, or that there can be no newness within her. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards, they do not fail but progress, the Saint said in his letter De Tribus Quaestionibus. Thus St Bonaventure explicitly formulates the idea of progress and this is an innovation in comparison with the Fathers of the Church and the majority of his contemporaries. For St Bonaventure Christ was no longer the end of history, as he was for the Fathers of the Church, but rather its center; history does not end with Christ but begins a new period. The following is another consequence:  until that moment the idea that the Fathers of the Church were the absolute summit of theology predominated, all successive generations could only be their disciples. St Bonaventure also recognized the Fathers as teachers for ever, but the phenomenon of St Francis assured him that the riches of Christ's word are inexhaustible and that new light could also appear to the new generations. The oneness of Christ also guarantees newness and renewal in all the periods of history.

The Franciscan Order of course as he emphasized belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the apostolic Church, and cannot be built on utopian spiritualism. Yet, at the same time, the newness of this Order in comparison with classical monasticism was valid and St Bonaventure as I said in my previous Catechesis defended this newness against the attacks of the secular clergy of Paris:  the Franciscans have no fixed monastery, they may go everywhere to proclaim the Gospel. It was precisely the break with stability, the characteristic of monasticism, for the sake of a new flexibility that restored to the Church her missionary dynamism.

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this "spiritualistic utopianism" is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally "other" Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

4. In this regard, St Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Franciscans, took a line of government which showed clearly that the new Order could not, as a community, live at the same "eschatological height" as St Francis, in whom he saw the future world anticipated, but guided at the same time by healthy realism and by spiritual courage he had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St Francis was the rule, but nevertheless bearing in mind the limitations of the human being who is marked by original sin.

Thus we see that for St Bonaventure governing was not merely action but above all was thinking and praying. At the root of his government we always find prayer and thought; all his decisions are the result of reflection, of thought illumined by prayer. His intimate contact with Christ always accompanied his work as Minister General and therefore he composed a series of theological and mystical writings that express the soul of his government. They also manifest his intention of guiding the Order inwardly, that is, of governing not only by means of commands and structures, but by guiding and illuminating souls, orienting them to Christ.

I would like to mention only one of these writings, which are the soul of his government and point out the way to follow, both for the individual and for the community:  the Itinerarium mentis in Deum, [The Mind's Road to God], which is a "manual" for mystical contemplation. This book was conceived in a deeply spiritual place:  Mount La Verna, where St Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction the author describes the circumstances that gave rise to this writing:  "While I meditated on the possible ascent of the mind to God, amongst other things there occurred that miracle which happened in the same place to the blessed Francis himself, namely the vision of the winged Seraph in the form of a Crucifix. While meditating upon this vision, I immediately saw that it offered me the ecstatic contemplation of Fr Francis himself as well as the way that leads to it" (cf. The Mind's Road to God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome 1993, p. 499).
The six wings of the Seraph thus became the symbol of the six stages that lead man progressively from the knowledge of God, through the observation of the world and creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St Francis of Assisi. The last words of St Bonaventure's Itinerarium, which respond to the question of how it is possible to reach this mystical communion with God, should be made to sink to the depths of the heart:  "If you should wish to know how these things come about, (the mystical communion with God) question grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light, but the fire that inflames all and transports to God with fullest unction and burning affection.... Let us then... pass over into darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let us pass over with the Crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that when the Father is shown to us we may say with Philip, "It is enough for me'" (cf. ibid., VII 6).

Dear friends, let us accept the invitation addressed to us by St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and learn at the school of the divine Teacher:  let us listen to his word of life and truth that resonates in the depths of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions so that he may dwell within us and that we may understand his divine voice which draws us towards true happiness.

Church of St Bonaventure in Lyon, France

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Bravo for Latvia!

Archbishop Vanags (second from right)

A leading player in the tiny nation of Latvia (pop. 2 million) is pushing back against modernity's 'gender ideology.’ The Lutheran archbishop leads Latvia’s largest Christian group: Lutherans (33 percent). They are part of the Nordic Reformation tradition; while 25 percent of Latvians are Catholics, more influenced by Poland. Most Orthodox in Latvia are Russian-speaking and associate with the Russian Orthodox Church.

[This article from a decade ago gives some of the background].



"Poland [to the southwest] conquered Latvia's territory in the mid-16th century, and occupied it until Sweden took over the land in 1629, ruling for a century. The land then passed to Russia for two hundred years. 

The Russian Revolution of 1917 gave Latvia the opportunity for freedom, and the Latvian republic was proclaimed the following year. The republic lasted for twenty years. 

The country was occupied by Russian troops in 1939. German armies occupied the nation from 1941 to 1944 -- when Russia again took control. 

In 1991, Latvia declared its independence."


Dark Rye Bread -- rupjmaize

"Latvian meals are always served with bread of some type -- usually dark bread -- it's the national staple. People eat it with potatoes, soups, jams, butter, cheese, salad... Actually with almost everything. Latvians treat food, especially bread, with great respect -- because we know it's not something that can be taken for granted and if the slice of bread falls on a floor, a Latvian will kiss it when picking it up."


Here is a statue of beloved artist Voldemars Irbe ("Irbite"), who for most of the year would stroll the Latvian capital barefoot.
He was killed by shrapnel on the last day of the Battle for Riga in 1944, when the Soviets captured the city from the Germans.


In Latvia and Estonia, roughly a quarter of the population is ethnic Russian -- while Lithuania, to the south, has less than 5 percent Russians.

("Russians make up almost a half of the population of Latvia's capital, Riga. In the second largest city Daugavpils [down by Belarus], Russians now make up the majority") !

UPDATE: 'Touchstone' magazine interviewed Archbishop Vanags at length in 1999.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Catholic Sociobiology: Seeing the Whole with Henri de Lubac

[first published February 23, 2016]

by Dr. David Pence

Sociobiology is a discipline in biology pioneered by E.O. Wilson with the publication of his massive Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. Wilson understood that particular social behaviors and bonding patterns of organisms led to survival for the group. He wanted to show that traits that foster optimal social organization for animals are selected and transmitted in accordance with the standard evolutionary model. He also wanted to apply this to human nature and the study of anthropology and history, since we too are a social group of animals worth studying. He wanted to introduce a biological basis for sociology.

His work infuriated University leftists and feminists. Wilson refocused evolutionary study from the study of individual traits and genes to looking at social groups and interactions as a whole. Before he did this more synthetic work, he was the world’s leading authority on ants. Ants and bees are organisms that live in communities of intense social cooperation. They are called "eusocial organisms." Studying them drives a man to think in wholes. In a later book Wilson argued that the intense wide-scale cooperation of humans made us eusocial as well. Wilson understood the link between survival and social cohesion.

Catholics steeped in the sacramental order make a similar claim in proposing the Eucharistic church as the social cohesion insuring eternal life. The Church upholds an even more striking trait of humans: that we are capable of species-wide social cohesion.  Unlike ant colonies and bee hives, humans are not forever restricted to the local tribe.

Wilson looked beyond the single gene in the single individual to the whole group and its interrelationships. Henri de Lubac was a Catholic theologian who proposed a similar paradigm shift.  He understood Catholicism as a transformative culture for a species -- more than a means for individual souls to be saved. He did not deny the salvation of individuals, but he thought that function secondary to the communal reality. One of our AOA writers has written a synthetic summary of four of de Lubac’s’ works. Catholic sociobiology starts with a theocentric understanding of human nature, and ends with the ecclesial social cohesion of the Body of Christ.

Here are a few selections from Mr. Lynch’s paper:  
"For de Lubac, the twin ruptures of the natural from the supernatural and the individual from the social can only be healed in Christ. It is precisely in Christ that man arrives, united in one body, at his supernatural end. Christ, 'in the fullness of time,' comes at the end of a history that is both cosmic and salvific. He is both the cosmic Christ through and for whom all things are made, as well as the New Adam in whom man, radically individualized by sin, is reconstituted and redeemed." 
"Since the nineteenth century the work of atheist humanists like Comte, Marx, and their successors have attempted to offer a coherent plan for the human race. Atheistic humanism bound humanity together in a death clasp -- yet that formulation seemed more heroic than the Christian narrative of escaping to eternal safety one coward at a time. For de Lubac, Christianity cannot defeat atheist humanism without presenting its own coherent vision of man. This vision, however, first requires a return to a theocentric and Christocentric understanding of humanity. Sinful man, broken and individuated, has been severed into his constituent parts. In this state he cannot regenerate himself like a plant; but, like a body, only decompose. This is not to say that after sin human nature is utterly corrupted, but rather that human nature is fallen and doomed to eternal death if it remains in its atomized state. Man must be, so to speak, ‘re-Adamized’ if he is to be de-atomized." 
"For de Lubac, there was a profound convergence in Scotus’ rejection of a sin-centric Incarnation and Chardin’s appreciation for creation’s relation to the Son, for whom and through whom it was made. Scotus, Chardin, and de Lubac would all agree that it was for the sake of the Incarnation that God created the heavens and the earth."

"Every physicist knows that mankind and the earth as a viable planet will not be here in a few billion years. We are in a life and death struggle that encompasses both matter and spirit. If we depend only on matter, the laws of nature are relentlessly against us in the long term. Man’s only hope to escape an ultimate death is to corporately bind himself to the living Christ in his Mystical Body, the Church. De Lubac’s Catholic vision of man was of man as a whole. He agrees with the atheistic humanists that we humans are tied together, but not in a death clasp waiting for a meteor to hit or the heat from an expanding Sun to end our sorry tale. Humanity is drawn together in the Church as a corporate Body so we experience our common destiny, which will surpass the limiting laws of matter and space. Our common destiny is a transcendent one -- eternal life in Christ."  

Monday, July 25, 2016




by A. Joseph Lynch

To many people, the word 'Turk' refers to the old Ottoman Turkic Empire and its ambitions to conquer eastern Europe and control the Mediterranean. Its more modern connotation places it with the NATO-member state of secular Turkey. While Turkey is of course a Turkic state, it stands at the far western edge of the broader Turkic steppe peoples that share a common language and generally share (with the exception of Shia Azerbaijan) a common Sunni Islamic faith. Despite their Sunni background, Sunni Arab states view them generally as outsiders due to their ethnic and linguistic differences.

Geography was also no help to the integration of Turks within the broader Islamic world as the Turks of central Asia are separated from the Sunni Arab states by the Caspian Sea and Shia Iran dominating the Iranian Plateau. Landlocked, these nations fell under the rule of Soviet communism, and are to this day drawn between Russian, Chinese, and the greater Islamic orbits. At its farthest east reaches, Turks find themselves directly under Chinese rule in Xinjang Province where Turks make up 45% of the population. China invests heavily in central Asia, in large part to keep Chinese Turks from finding an ally in its brother nations of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The most important Turkic player in the Mideast core is, of course, Turkey. Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Turkey maintained a European orientation, joining NATO and hoping to join the EU. As the War on Terror intensified and EU membership slipped out of Turkey's grasp, Turkey's renewed Islamic faith reoriented the nation to the Mideast. At first an outsider, Turkey won renewed favor among its brethren by supporting the Palestinians and working to resolve tensions with Tehran. Having played a vital role in Islamic leadership since defeating the Byzantines at Manzikert in 1071 through the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Turkey has returned from its roughly hundred-year European orientation to seek leadership in the broader Islamic world once more.

One cannot fully understand the events in the Islamic world without understanding the underlying communal loyalties of Arab, Persian, and Turkic Muslims in their Sunni and Shia faiths.

This third and final part of our series was preceded by posts on the Sunni Arab States and Persia-Shia Islam.

[This article first appeared on Anthropology of Accord on May 11, 2015]

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, July 23

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

A profile of the policeman.

Many traffic stops for Mr. Castile.

More details.

A damning video.

Giuliani on saving black lives.

The Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Hoax -- a liberal black reporter admits he got it wrong.

The two gun cultures by Cain Pence.

Policeman at home kills bipolar intruder after email exchange on BLM: white shooter and black victim.

President Obama at memorial of five slain officers.

President Bush at memorial.

Radical Islam Black Lives Matter and leftist transformation.

A popular black writer sees tit for tat in execution of Dallas police officers.

Two cardinals from Africa mince no words.

A brief history of cardinals from Taylor Marshall.

Putting God at the center of worship -- a Catholic debate.
Speaking of Catholic debates, Dr Pence and Fr John Echert debate on You Tube: on Pope Francis and marriage.
Blessedly unpredictable.

From same author: good description of religious actors in Ukraine.

Reevaluating the hysteria about Russia and Vladimir Putin.

US and Russia pledge more cooperation in Syria against ISIS. This is a very positive development which should not be met with an oppositional partisan reflex.

The murky world of Congressional endorsements, speaker fees, and Saudi lobbying.

Turkey and President Erdogan have the potential to play a very good or very bad role in the reformation of Sunni Islam. It is very important to have an accurate view of the Gulen movement. Toward that goal -- some different views. Is it a moderate front or a more malignant form of Islam?  or the "moderate Islam" so many of the West are seeking.

Global civics and Islam.

Are Erdogan foreign policy mishaps a possible cause of coup?

Best analysis post coup from War on Rocks.

The court rules as expected.

Watch that map: South China Sea and competing claims.

China joins US in ignoring a law the US refused to agree with.


ISIS not the major security concern of Israel.

A new Sunni state may be needed in the Mideast but it shouldn’t be cut out of Israel. It is highly likely that a Trump candidacy will reject the two-state solution which has so paralyzed American foreign policy in the Mideast. Here is a highly negative view of this development, but an accurate view of what may be coming. It would be a change of policy, indeed.  

How Trump changed Republican platform.

We have not written about the Dallas shootings and the police shootings of two black men (in Minnesota and Louisiana) which triggered the Black Lives Matter rally and then the Black Power sniper. This breakdown of civic brotherhood is at the core of our concerns here at AOA. We are still taking in what happened. Here are some previous writings:

 The betrayal of Selma and black men.

 The Benedict Option: Christian Fraternity.

 Joshua or Barak: Betraying the Promise.

 Heather McDonald on stopping the demonizing of the police. The amplification of the exception in order to obfuscate the obvious.

One profile.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday BookReview: The many ways we trip over Africa

[first published October 24, 2014]


“I prefer clarity over agreement.”  (Dennis Prager) 

One of the best smackdowns to appear in the 'New York Times' in recent years was when travel writer Paul Theroux took on Irish musician Bono.


The opening line, plus a few others:
"There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." 
"I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors... Mr. Gates has said candidly that he wants to rid himself of his burden of billions. Bono is one of his trusted advisers. Mr. Gates wants to send computers to Africa - an unproductive not to say insane idea. I would offer pencils and paper, mops and brooms: the schools I have seen in Malawi need them badly." 
"Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth. Such people come in all forms and they loom large. White celebrities busy-bodying in Africa loom especially large. Watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently in Ethiopia, cuddling African children and lecturing the world on charity, the image that immediately sprang to my mind was Tarzan and Jane."

What happens when an American newspaper sends a black reporter to cover Africa, and it turns out his allegiance to political correctness is negligible? A fine book results: Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa.

Author Keith Richburg, a native of Detroit, says:
"I'm tired of lying. And I'm tired of all the ignorance and hypocrisy and the double standards I hear and read about Africa, much of it from people who've never been there, let alone spent three years walking around amid the corpses... Talk to me about Africa and my black roots and my kinship with my African 'brothers' and I'll throw it back in your face... Thank God that I am an American [and] thank God my ancestor survived [the] voyage [to America on the slave ship]..."

Some excerpts from a review by Arch Puddington (1997):
[I]t is his observations on the pathology of African politics, and how that pathology intersects with our own racial perplexities, which ultimately make Out of America not only a provocative but an important book. Richburg has a powerful and very American sense of right and wrong, and he is especially sensitive to the cynical and manipulative use of the racial trump card in relations between Africans and Americans. The brazen exploitation of racial guilt by the thieves and murderers who are the continent’s despots especially appalled him... 
Richburg was present at a 1993 conference in Gabon attended by leading black American civil-rights activists. Among the guests of honor, he reports, was the continent’s youngest dictator, Valentine Strasser of Sierre Leone, a twenty-eight-year-old soldier who had seized power through a coup and proceeded systematically to arrest and execute officials of the previous regime. When Strasser strode into the hall, garbed in the standard-issue outfit of African strongmen—a camouflage uniform and Ray Ban sunglasses—the Americans erupted into cheering and frenzied applause...  
From Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of a Southern state, came the observation that “We cannot and should not expect [African governments] to undergo a metamorphosis in seconds . . . our job is not to interfere.” Benjamin Chavis (now Chavis Muhammad), then-director of the NAACP, warned against attempting “to superimpose a Western standard of democracy.” And Jesse Jackson heaped accolades on the ruthless Nigerian dictator Ibrahim Babangida, calling him “one of the great leader-servants of the modern world in our time.”

Jesse Jackson in Ivory Coast

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Christian Realism: An American Strategy for our War with Saudi Arabia and the Salafists

(first published June 30, 2016)

by Dr. David Pence

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The purpose of our Thursday Christian Realism entries has been to apply the religious historical thinking of Christopher Dawson to American foreign policy. He understood that nations grow out of cultures, and cultures develop within religions.

We have argued here and in the press that the Ivy League careerists and power couples who fill our State Department and foreign policy think tanks have a blind spot in understanding the male communal forces of religion and nationalism which drive so much of human history.

We have defined our true enemy as those who hold the Salafist-jihadi ideology contending for the soul of  Sunni Islam. [Salafi means "ancestor," and the ideology is a movement among Sunnis to return to a purer fighting form of Islam]. This ideology is centered in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is responsible for more than 95 percent of terrorist acts against the US. We then argued that we would have to realign forces with Shiite states (Iran and Iraq), Orthodox Russia, Hindu India, Jewish Israel, and Confucian China to isolate and destroy this movement within Islam that threatens to dominate the Sunni world.

The US has mistaken our enemy largely because we have tried to fight this new religious war within the structure of our Cold War alliances which tied us to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The baby-boomer presidents have also mistaken their generational revolt against gender and nature as a new chapter in human history. They brought neither historical intelligence nor matured character to the world stage where they found themselves as actors. They learned how to win elections, but they never became statesmen. Bill Clinton (with Sec of State Albright), Bush (Condi Rice), and Obama (Hillary Clinton) were utterly out-maneuvered on the world stage of religions, nations, and armed men acting in history. No matter how many awards a Bush would give a Clinton, or compliments a Clinton would give a McCain -- these officials would never approach the historical maturation of Eisenhower and Dulles, Nixon and Kissinger, or Carter and Brzezinski. This has led to a debilitating incoherence and misdirection in foreign policy since the Cold War was won. It got much worse after the 9/11 attacks as the worldly-wise Saudis played our partisan careerists like so many banjos.

The recent Orlando massacre, the exit of Britain from the European Union, and the growing Congressional movement to reevaluate our relationship with Saudi Arabia have buttressed our earlier arguments. We offer six goals as a guiding framework for American foreign policy. These goals are not listed in chronological order. The art of strategy, in fact, dictates that the first goal will be achieved most effectively only as the latter goals are realized more fully.

First: The United States should declare war on Saudi Arabia and seek Muslim allies who will replace the Wahhabi Salafists as the keepers of the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. This should be in strategic conjunction with a warning to ISIS to evacuate their women and children before a final reckoning destroys their short-lived state.

As the great Lee Kuan Yew said:
"In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young."

President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah

Second: The United States should seek deep alliances with our old allies in World War Two. We battled them during the Cold War. We made peace with our enemies -- Germany and Japan -- after World War Two. It is time to make a real peace with those who shed so much blood as our allies in WWII, and then all too quickly became our enemies in the Cold War. This begins with Russia, China, and India. We should concede to those great civilizational nations hegemony in their own regions. This means we should consider leaving NATO, and oppose the military build-up in the Russian western border nations. We should grant China hegemony in the South China Sea and encourage the development of that region as "a platform of cooperation," not a minefield for confrontation. China has a historical claim to territorial deference paid for by 10 million war dead in WWII. This is being ignored in the name of Eurocentric international rules of the seas. We should strengthen ties with India and its 125 million English speakers. We must end our alliance with the jihadists and Taliban enablers of Pakistan. We should concentrate much more effort on reforming our own nation and relating to the Christian nations of the Americas.

Third: The Salafist Sunni movement of Saudi Arabia is a sworn enemy to Shiites, Christians, and Jews. We must take seriously whom they are killing. The bombing of Shiites in Yemen is religious persecution and none of our claims as Christians for religious liberty is believable as long as we allow that slaughter in one of the poorest countries in the world to continue. Our country’s leaders have been deceived, misdirected, and manipulated by the Saudis. Somehow we think as long as the killing is from high in the air, and we have no "boots on the ground," that our hands are less bloody. Congress doing its duty in a time of war can reverse this policy. There are many indications that the Obama administration is open to correcting this contradiction that has been at the center of our policy for so long. This problem cannot be reduced to a debate of  Democrats against Republicans. A few men from each party will begin to see and speak clearly. Strange alliances will emerge as duty comes forward and careerism finally takes a back seat. We must work to deepen our cooperation with the Shiite states of Iraq and Iran. We must join with Russia to help broker a peace between Israel and Iran. The Shia have been the major victims of the Salafist Sunni religious persecution. This cannot be trivialized as "sectarian violence" or shrugged off as a thousand-year theological disagreement. Lynching black people was not a mutual  breakdown in interracial communications. Labeling the genocidal actions of Salafist jihadists toward the Shia as sectarian violence has been a decades-long scam to obfuscate the source of terror. Just "another instance of the Iran Saudi proxy war" has been another cover especially used by the Saudis in their invasion and bombing campaign against the Houthi Shia of Yemen. The Russian annexation of a willing Crimea and the Chinese port building in the South China Sea cannot hold candles to the Saudis' naked murderous aggression against Yemen’s Shiites. But, apparently, when Saudis cross national boundaries to employ high-tech warfare against religious enemies, there will be no outraged coalition organizing sanctions to protest the invasion. The Salafist/Saudi goal of annihilating Shia Muslims is a fundamental organizing principle of the terrorists. This stark fact necessitates a radical change in our alliances in the Mideast to defeat this demonic scourge.

The site of a car-bomb attack on Shiites in Yemen

Fourth: The alliances we must forge will be as religious men acting through nation states. Our NATO alliance has implicated us in the bombing of Christian Belgrade and the dismemberment of Libya. We must break free from the entangling relations of the Cold War. The nation-state is the fundamental actor in international relations. At the same time, as a Christian nation, we must make special efforts to align with Christian nations (from our South American Catholic neighbors to the Orthodox Russians). We must put forth the Christian goal for humanity as a fraternity of nations expressing the brotherhood of men under God. We must directly offer this as a more realistic vision than the Darwinian paradigm of perpetual war of all against all. We must not allow the Darwinian vision of Hitler to triumph as so called "realism." We must accept the territorial integrity of Israel as one nation, and stop trying to split it apart into a geographically indefensible unit. That is an invitation to war. We must learn geography and understand the limits and providential design of territorial nations. At the same time we must see that the states that are in a fundamental boundary flux are Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. What is their Ummah [an Arab word for community deeper and broader than nations]?  Is there an Arab nation? Is there a Greater Syria? Can there be an extensive new Palestine east of the Jordan? Who should govern the Holy Cities? Will the Shiite people of the Eastern Province and Bahrain be free to rule themselves and their resources? What is the role of the  Hashemites in reconfiguring religious and national loyalties? We know these questions cannot be answered until the demonic Salafist regime that is the queen bee for the jihadist hive is removed. Only then will these matters of religious authority and nation states be resolved by Muslims seeking to do God’s will.

Fifth: Our own nation must repent and turn our hearts back to God. We must culturally put an end to the disastrous baby-boomer project of drugs, sexual confusion, and libertine atheism in the name of feminism and personal autonomy. Our fight against the Salafist jihadists from Boko Haram to Al Shabaab to al Qaeda to ISIS cannot be won if we as a people turn away from God. What was true for Israel in the Bible is true for us: "Unless the Lord build the house, the workers toil in vain."

Atheism and gender ideology have turned American men away from our shared masculine duty and identities as protectors. The reason the nightclub in Orlando was picked for slaughter had nothing to do with hatred toward gays. Omar Mateen was very comfortable at the Pulse nightclub. He knew his soft target very well. He didn’t hate the place or the people. He enjoyed the anything goes atmosphere. There were no bikers or "let's roll" men there to thwart his murderous scheme. He did not go there because he was full of hate. He struck there because he had no fear.

If we are in a worldwide civilizational war and American liberty is represented by gay nightclubs for men and abortion clinics for women, we will lose the war. As Cardinal Sarah of Guinea has warned, these are death trips set against the protective culture of life. The African nations that sit on the dangerous and bloody Muslim Christian fault line must not be forced to choose between the twin demonic forces of Salafist ideology from the Saudis and gender ideology from the West.

We must end the failed experimentation of drug induced baby boomer sexual confusion. Our nation is in peril. We must return to our traditional sacral and sexual order. We must assume the protective relations of adult male groups in every city, town, and state to safeguard the nation. Our brotherhood knows neither class nor color line. We must actively socialize all young American men into an interracial brotherhood of local and national protection—that especially includes Muslims and new immigrants from Latin America. We cannot be strangers to each other—we are meant to be brothers. To love the nation is not to be racist. It is to give a territorial political form to male bonding which can make gangs, murderous brotherhoods, or brother citizens. American nationalism among men is not a form of racism, it is its antidote.

The shared male role of group protection is the fulfillment of the civil rights movement against racism and the answer to our urban strife between police officers and young black males. Black men were marching 50 years ago to be accepted as part of the civic community. The most important consequence of gaining local voting rights was to eventually become a county sheriff. They wanted to share in protection. The sexual confusion of gender ideology has stopped us from bringing young black men AS AMERICAN MEN into their natural role as fellow protectors in our schools and cities.

We must publicly assert a masculine Christian culture of fraternity, fatherhood  and protection so our enemies do not mistake us for a spiritually emasculated people. Nothing evokes the inner jihadist like an easy kill.

Sixth: Finally, how shall we speak of our enemy and how define our broad alliance? The Wahhabi/Saudi/ISIS alliance is of the Devil, and men of God must gather to stone him. The Salafist jihadi ideology is more diffuse than Saudi Arabia but that is its center. As long as the Salafists of Saudi Arabia  control the sites and practices of the pilgrimage, they will shape Islam. Christian nations must be the first to form this alliance of men who seek to do the Will of God. We must name  the Salafist-jihadi ideology for what it is and show above all that it will not be the winning force in religion or history. The Sunni nations and tribes will only join us when they know the Saudis will really lose their grip. The Salafists are not a radical form of Islam to be defeated by moderate Islam. No one should be moderate in his love of God. We are not fighting radical Islam. The Wahhabi/Saudi Salafists are a movement of Satan set against the will of God to elevate the prestige of certain men. All those who choose to follow God’s will are brothers in arms united to honor the name of God and to protect women and children by ridding the earth and Saudi Arabia of this parasitic death cult. Christian nations and Muslim nations are not fighting an Islam that is too religious. We are fighting a movement of Satan that has drunk too much human blood and thirsts for more.      

"It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible that this thinking -- and I am not saying the religion -- I am saying this thinking.
"This is antagonizing the entire world. It's antagonizing the entire world! Does this mean that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world's inhabitants -- that is 7 billion -- so that they themselves may live? Impossible!" 
― President el-Sisi of Egypt, calling for a religious revolution in Islam (Jan 2015)