Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for Advent -- ponder "Christ the King of Fearful Majesty"

(first published November 25, 2011)

Pence writes:

Yes, Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior. He is also the Ruler of Nature, the Lord of History, and the Slayer of the Leviathan. When I hear Evangelicals call Jesus their “personal Lord and Savior,” I know the fullness from which they speak and I cannot begrudge the term. When I hear Catholics use that very foreign phrase, I think it's a job demotion for Our Blessed Lord. For we know Him in the Eucharist as we are becoming not his friend, but incorporated in His Body. And we remember his Incarnational transformation of physical nature, and we await his triumphant coming again as Head of the Church and King of History and the nations. Catholics are always living within these three comings of Christ. Maybe because the Eucharist is such an intense physical personal event, we don’t emotionally emphasize our personal relationship with Christ but look, instead, both backward and forward to the actions of the Cosmic King.

We lose something of Christ and a good deal of man if we define Christ solely in terms of soteriology (His saving act toward man). Christ would have been King even if Adam had not fallen, so there is something essential about man and Christ that does not depend on Adam’s sin and Christ as Our Savior. The Liturgical Year offers us special days to contemplate certain truths, which can be under-emphasized by particular cultures and eras. Let us fully understand this final feast in the Church calendar, in order to better greet the baby and receive His Body -- remembering that when the trumpet finally sounds, indeed, he will "bestride the narrow world like a Colossus" and Eternal King

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 22

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:

In baseball, left-handed pitching aces are always at a premium; so too, alas, prison wardens who know how to bring desperate men into the hope of the living LORD are a rarity. This country is blessed to have such a warden in charge of our largest prison.

When Peter was confronted by the servant girl in the courtyard he stammered and stuttered when asked if he followed Christ. Cardinal Sean O'Malley seems even more tongue-tied in explaining why the male priesthood is not "immoral" to a feminist TV reporter on 60 Minutes. The best he could do was to say it can't be immoral because Christ wouldn't be immoral, but if he (Cardinal O'Malley) was starting a church, he would have women priests. This embarrassing anthropological confusion and underhanded insult to Our Lord makes the male priesthood incomprehensible not just to lady reporters, but to young seminarians and old priests bereft of a father's voice in dioceses like Boston. The reason so many young teenage males were abused in the Catholic Church is because the careerists who have advanced in the American hierarchy have no father in them. Listen here as an apostle replays Peter in the courtyard. We can only pray that he will see the face of Christ, hear his own words of betrayal, and go somewhere to weep.

An excellent overview with maps and charts of the US relations in Asia by Heritage Foundation researchers.

One way to look at the Russian Bear is through the eyes of the Germans as Germans, While many words have been spoken and much ink spilled over Putin's presence in the Baltic Sea and over the skies of the Baltic States, Vladimir Putin - Slavic and Orthodox - has his eyes in the Balkan nations of Europe's southeast. This assessment of the influence of Russia's Putin with other Balkan nations is sobering.

Nations need leaders like the body needs its head. Narenda Modi of India delayed a WTO agreement a few months ago and the pro-business nationalist was labeled a short-sighted obstructionist by the "free trade community." Modi is all for easing barriers to trade in many areas, but food security for his nation was not on the table. The WTO has tied acceptance of its multifaceted treaties with a requirement that nations not subsidize more than 10% of food production for their own populations. This magic number "destabilizes" markets. Obviously, many nations see food production as a part of the national economy ruled by other dictates than elastic pricing and free trade. Mr. Modi held out and his willingness to ease trade barriers in other areas will not depend on his surrendering his governmental duty to feed his people at home. It was a practical lesson in achieving progress in international trade without sacrificing economic nationalism.

On November 13, 2014, The Pew Research Project on Religion and Public Life released a 310-page document on 'Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region.' It is an excellent introduction to help us study and ask when the sleeping giants of the Iberian Catholic tradition will reenter the arena of world politics as Catholic nations led by Catholic statesmen.

On this day in 1718, the ruthless Blackbeard met his bloody end in a sea-fight off the Carolina coast. (The first quarter of the 18th century was the Heyday of Pirates, as they preyed upon the commercial routes between Europe and the New World. And where was their safe haven -- the locale "where they [went] to restock, sell their loot, repair their ships and recruit more men"? The British Caribbean.) See also: The Golden Age of Piracy.

President John F. Kennedy died 51 years ago today. He was America's first Catholic president and a masculine liberal who understood that men of different religious creeds were bound by their civic duties against the common threat of armed atheism. He called men to this brotherhood of protective duty in nations large and small.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday BookReview: "Bonds of Affection" by Matthew Holland

(first published July 6, 2012)

"We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies..."
       (John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony)

From a review several years ago by Dr. Pence of Mr. Holland’s Bonds of Affection:

With most thinkers, Matthew Holland does not find eros in political life but neither does he build civic bonds on the philia of fraternal friendship. When he says 'civic charity' he means a civic life animated by agape -- that distinctive Christian love that "includes concern for another's standing before God even when others mean us harm." This of course has implications for how we treat our enemies and our fellow citizens...

Professor Holland finds agape informing the language and political goals of American leaders for two centuries by studying several key authors and texts: John Winthrop ("A Model of Christian Charity," 1630); Thomas Jefferson (rough draft of the "Declaration of Independence," 1776, and his "First Inaugural Address," 1801); and Abraham Lincoln ("Second Inaugural," 1865).  Holland takes seriously Christian charity as a realistic way to deal with public life. He convincingly argues, that for both Lincoln and Jefferson, it was the realistic crucible of office which forged a deeper sensibility of the necessity of the bonds of charity in civic life. Holland's treatment of Jefferson is especially careful. Holland does not play the Christian alchemist turning Enlightenment rights into Christian love, but he reminds us that even the most rights-oriented of Jefferson's writings ends with a bond: "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." Holland reminds us this was no idle pledge. To secure that bond, one out of every hundred Americans lost their lives.

If Holland finds "bonds to the death" where others only found rights, he also finds analogical political forms in the New Testament where others tend to look for political narrative in the Old Testament alone. He quite rightly locates the sacrificial duties of soldiers in a pivotal moment in the Christian narrative -- Christ's Last Supper when he commands mimesis [imitation] and then sets out to lay down his life for his friends. Christian military men have always seen this obvious link -- political scientists almost never do. This is one of the great strengths of the book: Holland is both attentive to religious sensibilities and appreciative of military sacrifice. In fact, quite unlike the pagan warrior crowd, he shows that the patriotism of soldiers and the sacrificial love of agape are interlocking constituents of civic charity...

Here are four important ideas I learned... I may have heard variants on these ideas before, but Holland's charity theme clarifies and deepens the political union of men as fellow citizens:

1) All men possess rights but the point is to exercise them. This can only be done if we secure rights; and this is done by entering into a bond of agreement -- for this, we institute governments. No agreement, no rights. No civic love, no individual liberty. Possessing rights might be universal but exercising rights only occurs where rights have been secured by forming a real government in some time and place. Because of evil in the world this can only happen when men pledge their lives to protect these liberties. This is not a contract calculation by an individual, but an entry into a community of shared affections pledging personal honor and lives to each other and a new corporate entity.

2) Secular tyranny does not fear religion because it separates people but because it might unite us. Holland taught this by reminding us of Tocqueville's insight: "A despot will forgive his subjects that they do not love him as long as they do not love each other."

3) Lincoln's 1838 speech to the young men in the Springfield Lyceum was about giving up hatred and passions by living inside the law. Men must be united by civic affection to governance as well as each other. I was newly struck in that speech (having read it at least twice before) how much Lincoln felt he had to deal with men's hatred. Thus his language is built on authority and affection more than rights. At the Lyceum, Holland emphasizes that Lincoln does not soothe, but is demanding of the assembled young men. See the brave acts of the ancestors -- you benefit from this but as of yet you have done nothing to continue their work. (If only leaders, especially so-called conservatives, would so speak to young men at our elite universities and think-tanks with such demands.)

4) Here is Holland's eloquent description of political prudence in Lincoln: "To do this effectively meant for Lincoln assiduously gathering facts, contemplating history, anticipating implication, working out an argument against its best counterattack, and allowing time, circumstance, public promotion and private negotiation to settle things into a workable solution. His self-chosen metaphor was pilots on a western river who knew they wanted to get downstream but only steered from point to point as they could see, which was often not far."

[Professor Holland also provides] a powerful and sympathetic treatment of the much-neglected, but most important, novel in American history: Uncle Tom's Cabin.

         (John Winthrop, who died in 1649, served as governor for twelve years.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Map on Monday: World War I Redraws European Boundaries

The map above depicts the European map during the years of World War I. Below is a map which looks strikingly different. It is the redrawn map of Europe following the defeat of the Central Powers in 1918.

The most significant changes between the two maps may be found in the Balkans and around the Baltic Sea. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, defeated in war, was broken up and the many nations which were conglomerated within her were given the ability to rule themselves as governing states. In the decades ahead, however, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would themselves require more separation as the nations within them had yet to achieve statehood. In the northeast, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia appeared out of what was once a part of the Russian Empire - which itself had now fallen to militant atheists under Lenin's communist USSR. Though it had a long history of statehood, Poland re-appeared as yet another new nation on the post Great War map.

Other areas had changed to a lesser degree. Germany was now cut off from East Prussia due to a land corridor of the newly formed Poland which gave it access to the sea. Italy had shifted slightly, gaining further territory to the northeast in Tyrolia. France, victorious in war, regained the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine which it had lost to the Germans following a stunning defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (indeed Germany had hoped its 1914 campaign in France would have been as successful as the one in 1870).

An often overlooked area of the map is the division of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish nation will be the first secular regime emerging from the Ottoman caliphate. Much of today's Mideast map was reconfigured from the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment. The map below demonstrates:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, November 15

Religion and Geopolitics Review this week includes:

Mark Judge discusses what happened to our souls.

There has probably never been a president in US history so bereft of a male group of advisors as President Obama. His authority figures resemble his anthropologist white mother far more than his Kenyan black father. The queen of his internal female cadre is Valerie Jarrett. Here are a few interesting profiles.

Another speech at the Berlin Wall should be listened to as carefully as the JFK and Reagan speeches that helped tear down the wall. Mikhail Gorbachev, on the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, warned against a new and dangerous barrier being erected by NATO and the West against Russia. This interview is a good introduction to the thinking which underlies the animus of many prominent US Catholics to Vladimir Putin, Russia and leaders of the Orthodox Church

Nigeria has the largest population (175 million) and GDP in Africa, but it is really two nations. The Muslim north would be the fifth-largest Muslim country in the world, and the Christian south would be the 6th-largest Christian country. The girls captured by the Muslim Boko Haram were in a government school in the north. They couldn't be rescued because the Nigerian federal government based in the Christian south doesn't militarily control the rest of the nation. The oil of Nigeria is overwhelmingly in the Christian south. The other important communal divisions in the country are the many ethnic groups with three dominant groups. Nigeria exists on a cultural fault line where "earthquakes of State" are bound to happen.

The continued role of the US in NATO is one of the central strategic questions we face as a nation. A succinct review of our problem by an eminent military historian.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday BookReview: the perspective of the Central Powers in the Great War

                                                          Serbian officers preparing to fire on Austrians                                                              

One of the volumes in most Top Ten lists about the Great War is The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. Holger Herwig, who has taught for years up in Calgary, wrote the book two decades ago.

From a reader's reaction:
"The most interesting aspect of the book was the relations between Germany and Austria-Hungary... [Herwig writes] about the strained relations between the two most important Central Powers in great detail. In theory, they started the war as equals, but that changed by 1915. After the first year of the war, Austria-Hungary became increasingly dependent upon Germany during the major campaigns in the East. German soldiers also propped up the Austro-Hungarians in Italy. According to Herwig, the Austro-Hungarians lost any ability to continue the war without German support after the Brusilov Offensive of 1916. 

"The author stressed that the two powers did not always cooperate. Both sides lied to each other about their plans in Russia in 1914. The Austro-Hungarians waged an ill-fated offensive into Italy in 1916... The best example of their lack of cooperation was when Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary actually proposed that Germany cede Alsace-Lorraine to France... Herwig also wrote about the strain between these two allies in regards to who would get supplies (especially food) from Romania and Russia. 

"The Habsburg Empire also had to play a careful balancing act between its myriad of nationalities. Some, such as the Czechs, were reluctant to fight the Russians, and many deserted. There was also a great deal of mutual antagonism between those national groups. Many groups in the Hungarian section of the Empire resented the high-handed nature of their Magyar overlords. According to Herwig, the Hungarians resented having to turn over some of their food to the Austrian part of the Empire. 

"The relationship that Herwig portrayed between Germany and Austria-Hungary paralleled that of Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies in the French and Indian War (1754-1760 in North America). The dominant power (Germany) looked down on the other power as being weak and petty in its self-interests; consider the quote: 'We are allied to a corpse.' On the other hand, the weaker power (Austria-Hungary) resented being taken for granted and bossed around by Germany. In 1918, Ludendorff even proposed that Germany should invade Austria-Hungary if relations continued to deteriorate."

From an interview with Professor Herwig:

Do you sense a resurgence of interest in military history?
"Yes. And it’s mostly by young people. World War II is now basically their grandparents’ memory, so they’ve heard very little about war from their parents. And in Canada, they have this image that we’ve always been peacekeepers—wearing blue helmets and never firing a shot. Our combat role in Afghanistan is helping change that image. But many young people are still really surprised to learn Canadians played a significant combat role in the Boer War, both world wars and the Korean conflict. They are amazed to learn that, coming out of World War II, Canada had the world’s third largest navy and was immediately tasked by NATO with patrolling the Atlantic against Soviet submarines."

So there’s keen interest, but not a high level of knowledge?
"Unfortunately, no. Our high schools are failing to teach Canadian history—including our military history."

Why is that so important?
"It can be argued that Canada came of age during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. That’s when the Canadian Corps did what the British and French could not do. That’s when our troops became first-rate, front-line fighters commanded by Canadians—and not just cannon fodder for the British Empire. Our young people need to know that."
                                                                                                                       Austrian cavalryman

 A new work, with similar emphases, has now been issued: Ring of Steel by British historian Alexander Watson.

From a review of the book in the 'Guardian' newspaper --
"Its starting point is that, however terrible the war was for the British – with a million dead – it was much, much worse for the peoples of central and eastern Europe. It didn't just kill huge numbers of them, it brought shattering defeat and ushered in a century of political upheaval and ethnic conflict."
 A couple comments from readers:
"The Germans and Austrian governments were surrounded by a ring of steel. Great Britain had the best navy in the world which was used to blockade German ports. As a result there was mass hunger and in some cases even starvation in the Reich and Austria-Hungary. The Germans and Austrians faced better equipped and armed enemies, losing millions of men in the trench warfare of the Western Front. The Russians invaded Germany and surrounded the Kaiser's.. over-matched army." 
"The [Habsburg monarchy's] officer class proved far more effective at hounding its ethnic minorities into active dissent than in actually defeating opponents in the field, and its Hungarian oligarchs in the east were brutally selfish and suicidally myopic in their narrow focus on ethnic hegemony."

Professor Watson describes how, in the Habsburg empire, "mobilisation took place within individual national communities, each of which understood the war in different ways. This became a problem as the war dragged on and the claims of different national groups clashed."

From a review in the 'Financial Times':
"[Watson] claims that the Allied side was primarily responsible for radicalising the war. Britain plays a central role in his argument, as its entry transformed the conflict into an attritional one between economies and societies. Britain’s blockade, the epitome of economic warfare and at the very least dubious under international law, entailed the targeting of civilians and provoked German unrestricted submarine warfare. 
"The most profound radicalisations took place in eastern Europe, in the lands fought over by German, Habsburg and Russian forces..."
                                                                                German officer helmet

The literature review "Open Doors," based in Boston, points to an intriguing assertion that everything might have been different if the Central Powers could have held out a bit longer, and resisted the temptation to unleash their submarines -- which caused America to declare war in the spring of 1917. 
An excerpt from Ring of Steel:
"Unbeknownst to the Germans, the exertions of the past year had almost bankrupted the British. Paying for food and raw materials such as steel, as well as semi-finished or finished armaments, was costing the Treasury two million pounds a day, and British gold reserves and securities were on course to being exhausted by March 1917. Meanwhile the French army, even more than its German opponent, was demoralized after the bloodletting at Verdun and on the Somme. Its disillusionment with its commanders would break out in a mass strike in the spring and summer of 1917. Most ominous, the Russian Empire was on the verge of revolution. Little over a month after the unrestricted submarine campaign started on 1 February, the Tsar was overthrown by a popular uprising, an event that could have upturned the strategic situation and gifted the Central Powers a real chance of triumph. Instead, as one great enemy gradually collapsed, another, thanks to the U-boat campaign, entered hostilities."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three among the poets killed in the First War

ALAN SEEGER, an American who had joined the French Foreign Legion, died on July 4, 1916 -- in the Battle of the Somme.

This is "On Returning to the Front after Leave: Sonnet XI":

Apart sweet women (for whom Heaven be blessed),
Comrades, you cannot think how thin and blue
Look the leftovers of mankind that rest,
Now that the cream has been skimmed off in you.
War has its horrors, but has this of good—
That its sure processes sort out and bind
Brave hearts in one intrepid brotherhood
And leave the shams and imbeciles behind.
Now turn we joyful to the great attacks,
Not only that we face in a fair field
Our valiant foe and all his deadly tools,
But also that we turn disdainful backs
On that poor world we scorn yet die to shield—
That world of cowards, hypocrites, and fools.

One man whose star seems to burn brighter and brighter in Catholic culture and beyond is CHARLES PEGUY. He was killed about a month after the war started.

He always sang of the mystery of Hope, the frailest of the virtues; but the one that's new every morning, and the one that -- stride for persevering stride -- pulls and guides her two older sisters (Faith and Love) down the street.

Hope "surprises even God." It is the eternal flame in the lamp.

Here is PĆ©guy's poem entitled "Sleep":

Human wisdom says Don’t put off until tomorrow 
What can be done the very same day.
But I tell you that he who knows how to put off until tomorrow
Is the most agreeable to God
He who sleeps like a child
Is also he who sleeps like my darling Hope.
And I tell you Put off until tomorrow
Those worries and those troubles which are gnawing at you today
Put off until tomorrow those sobs that choke you
When you see today’s unhappiness.
Those sobs which rise up and strangle you.
Put off until tomorrow those tears which fill your eyes and your head,
Flooding you, rolling down your cheeks, those tears which stream down your cheeks.
Because between now and tomorrow, maybe I, God, will have passed by your way.
Human wisdom says: Woe to the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
And I say Blessed, blessed is the man who puts off what he has to do until tomorrow.
Blessed is he who puts off. That is to say, blessed is he who hopes. And who sleeps.

JULIAN GRENFELL was an Englishman who was killed in northern France in 1915. His best-known poem -- "Into Battle" -- was first published in the 'Times' of London the day after he died.

The naked earth is warm with spring, 
And with green grass and bursting trees 
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying, 
And quivers in the sunny breeze; 
And life is colour and warmth and light, 
And a striving evermore for these; 
And he is dead who will not fight; 
And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun 
Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth; 
Speed with the light-foot winds to run, 
And with the trees to newer birth; 
And find, when fighting shall be done, 
Great rest, and fullness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven 
Hold him in their high comradeship, 
The Dog-Star, and the Sisters Seven, 
Orion's Belt and sworded hip.

The woodland trees that stand together, 
They stand to him each one a friend; 
They gently speak in the windy weather; 
They guide to valley and ridge's end.

The kestrel hovering by day, 
And the little owls that call by night, 
Bid him be swift and keen as they, 
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him, "Brother, brother, 
If this be the last song you shall sing, 
Sing well, for you may not sing another; 
Brother, sing."

In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours, 
Before the brazen frenzy starts, 
The horses show him nobler powers; 
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks, 
And all things else are out of mind, 
And only joy of battle takes 
Him by the throat, and makes him blind,

Through joy and blindness he shall know, 
Not caring much to know, that still 
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so 
That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands, 
And in the air death moans and sings; 
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, 
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.