Monday, January 23, 2017

Map on Monday: SYRIA

This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on September 14, 2015. Click here to read our Map on Monday: SYRIA post.

An update on how the election of Donald Trump may effect an alliance with Russia and Syria’s Assad. This would bring a dramatic change of strategy which we have advocated for several years.

The most significant voice one should hear on Syria is from the University of Oklahoma. Again we find far from the DC think tanks (though he has spoken to them) real academic experts who know their disciplines but have not risen as high as they might among the Eastern elite. Joshua Landis (b1957) grew up in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He is fluent in French and Arabic.  He heads Oklahoma’s  Center for Middle East Studies and runs the always astute Syria Comment blog. This excellent interview and summary includes alternatives for the Trump administration. Landis concludes that the Russians and Assad read the situation much more accurately than US policymakers. The democracy revolution of Senator McCain and Secretary Clinton was western hubris. By arming the revolution which failed we added to the death toll without advancing freedom. Democracy was never a goal of the participants and the idea of a unified Syrian national identity apart from the Assad coalition is a fantasy.

The shift in policy toward a concert of  the civilized nations received a huge boost in late 2016 as a rift between Saudi Arabia and Egypt developed on Syrian policy. The Egyptians have come to see the destabilization of Syria’s Assad is a prescription for disaster.  A major emphasis in the realignment of forces should be supporting Egypt as a responsible Sunni Arab nation state ready to help extricate the demonic Salafist influence from Islam.

Friday, January 20, 2017

America's new president


by David Pence

Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States

From his inaugural address:

"It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: That whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator."

At AOA, we were enthusiastic backers of President Trump. We tried to assemble the best of the arguments for him during the campaign. This was our first impression of why he won, and what it will mean. We think his reversal of our failed Syrian policy initiates the strategy needed to crush ISIS. His attempt to normalize relations with Russia could be an epoch-changing moment in the history of Christianity and the progress of nations toward international fraternity. We believe his election is a return of the adults after the American sexual  revolution with its deep analogies to the disastrous Chinese cultural revolution. 

We look forward to a renewal of interracial accord based on a more public expression of Christian brotherhood and our common national identity across color lines as fellow Americans. Or as President Trump put it: "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”  We see nationalism as an integrating form of territorial community that is an antidote to racial and class hatred. The shared duty of American men to protect all our women and children forms the brotherhood of male citizenship. That communal identity as the mark of masculine maturation is the missing link to male socialization in our cities and countryside. We give thanks to God, and promise to respect his Name and Commandments once again in America. It is only under God that America will be great again. Let us fortify our new president by building American brotherhood in every city, county and state of our beloved country. Let us join men of faith everywhere and rejoice, "God is Great!"

\UPDATE: Which news reporter understands Mr. Trump and the men around him most clearly? His name is Robert Costa -- and this discussion will convince you.  

  "Through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

CHRISTIAN REALISM: Lev Gumilev, Eurasia, and the Russian Soul

by Dr. David Pence

Lev Gumilev (1912-1992) was a Russian writer, anthropologist, and historian who played a pivotal role in defining the Russian national identity and her historical mission.

(We draw from a comprehensive Masters thesis by Alexander Titov and a Financial Times article by Charles Clover called "Lev Gumilev: Passion, Putin, and Power.")


Gumilev is not a religious thinker, but many of his insights are amenable to baptism. He was part of a synthetic Marxist tradition that meant to link the study of physical nature, biological development, and human history in a single paradigm. His father was executed when he was 9. He spent years in Soviet prison camps. His mother was a famous Russian poet: Anna Akhmatova. He had a love-hate relationship with her, and once said if he was killed in the camp, "for her, my death will be a pretext for some graveside poem: how poor she is, she has lost her son. Nothing more." Introducing Gumilev’s categories provides a small window to the Russian soul and a rich vocabulary to discuss communal identity and nationalism in history.

In a 2012 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin employed a key Gumilev concept.

Putin’s definition of 'passionarity' (from the Latin word passio) was a slightly sanitized one. "Moving forward and embracing change" was one way of putting what Gumilev meant, though more accurate would be something like "capacity for suffering." It was a word with allusions to the New Testament and the crucifixion, that had been dreamt up by Gumilev during his 14 years in Siberian prison camps. In 1939, while digging the White Sea Canal and daily watching inmates die of exhaustion and hypothermia, Gumilev invented his theory of passionarnost. The defining trait of greatness -- he would write in Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere, the book that established his ideas (written in 1979 and circulated in samizdat form during the ensuing decade) -- was sacrifice.
President Putin

Observing inmates forced to behave like beasts in order to survive had taught him that the virtues of society, friendship, and brotherhood were not a mark of human advancement but an instinctual urge, common to all humans at all times, "to distinguish us from them." Gumilev wrote that the principle of komplimentamost was initially devised while serving his first prison sentence in Norilsk. At the labor camp the necessary condition of survival was the ability to form informal links with other inmates, which formed small groups of two to four people who helped and supported each other. He argued that these groups were formed on the basis of mutual sympathy, rather than rational calculation. [The basis of ethnos will be komplimentarnost -- a subconscious attraction of one for another -- these types of union are called konsortsii and konvictsii.]

"Working as a historian from the late 1950s to the end of his life, Gumilev became a renowned expert on the steppe tribes of inner Eurasia: the Scythians, the Xiongnu, the Huns, Turks, Khitai, Tanguts, and Mongols. Their history did not record the progress of enlightenment and reason, but rather an endless cycle of migration, conquest, and genocide. Every few hundred years, nomads would sweep out of the steppes, plunder the flourishing kingdoms of Europe, the Middle East, or Asia, and then vanish into history’s fog just as quickly as they had come. The victors in these struggles were not the societies that led the world in technology, wealth, and reason. Instead, they had something that Machiavelli described as virtù, or martial spirit, while the medieval Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun described the tribal solidarity of nomadic raiders of civilised cities as asabiyya."

"In 1970, Gumilev published an article in the journal Priroda (Nature), in which he laid out the idea of the 'ethnos' — something similar to a nation or ethnic group — which he described as the most basic element of world history: the national or ethnic self-identification that is "a phenomenon so universal as to indicate its deep underlying foundation." Drawing on his labor-camp theories, he argued that ethnoi were not social phenomena, but rather the result of a biological instinct to acquire a "stereotype of behaviour" early in life.
"There is not a single person on earth outside of an ethnos," he was fond of saying. "Everybody will answer the question, ‘What are you?’ with ‘Russian, ‘French’, ‘Persian’, ‘Maasai’ etc, without a moment’s hesitation."

For Gumilev, the existence of ethnoi was the result of "passionarity" — the instinct to self-abnegation. What distinguishes an ethnos from a jumble of languages, religions. and historical experiences is a common purpose, and the willingness of members to sacrifice themselves for it. Ethnoi, he theorised, always start with the actions of a small group of "passionaries."

The concept of the ethnic field helped to explain why ethnoses could live under the influence of other cultures while preserving their unique identity. At an encounter of two different rhythms there could be either a harmony which would lead to ethnic fusion, or disharmony which would lead to annihilation. Ethnoses in the same superethnos had harmonious ethnic frequencies, while an alien superethnos was most likely to have a dissonant ethnic rhythm.

Gumilev offered the following classification of different ethnic groups. The superethnos was the largest ethnic unit, which he defined as ‘a group of ethnoses, which appears simultaneously in the same region, and which manifests itself in history as a mosaic-like integrity.’ They were real units, not abstract conceptions of historians.

A superethnos was a system of a higher order than an ethnos. Development of a superethnos was determined by a combination of passionary impulses, geography and ethnic pre-history. As was remarked earlier, for Gumilev, the behavioural stereotype of an ethnos had a close relation with its environment. It was impossible to have the same behavioural stereotype in different geographical environments. This was one of the main reasons for the impossibility of a single culture for humankind.

"The concept of a ‘national character’ similar in all periods of an ethnos’ dynamic life was a myth. Gumilev gave an example of how attitudes had changed in the nineteenth century Russia. The ancestors of Ranevskaia in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard had planted the orchard which she frittered away. Merchants from Ostrovskii’splays squandered capital accumulated by their grandfathers. What was more typical of the ‘Russian psychological type’ - the determined accumulation or the frivolous waste?"

"There are four central themes in Gumilev’s thought on Russian history. First, he argued that there was a distinction in principle between Kievan Rus and Muscovite Russia. Second, he emphasised the positive effects of the Mongol influence on Russia." (The experiences of being overwhelmed by fighting nomadic tribes helped shaped the Eurasian  "stereotype of behavior" that made the Russian national identity. He did not see the Mongol Yoke as a negative experience that retarded Russia but as a behavioral overlay that made them warriors.)
"Third, Gumilev stressed the emergence of a distinct behavioural stereotype as the key to understanding Russian history. Finally, he interpreted Russian history in terms of the phases of ethnogenesis.

Alexander Nevsky’s famous victory over the Teutonic knights on Lake Peipus in April 1242 forestalled but did not completely remove the danger of a German offensive. Nevsky went on to crush a major rebellion in Novgorod in 1257-58 with Mongolian assistance… He received military aid in exchange for a tribute to the Golden Horde. Gumilev observed that 'if one cannot protect oneself, one has to pay for protection against one’s enemies.'


For Gumilev, an important question was whether Alexander Nevsky [pictured] was the last prince of Ancient Rus or the first prince of the future Great Russia, which for Gumilev was mutually exclusive. Gumilev argued that Alexander Nevsky and his supporters’ selfless behavior was in contrast to the prevalent behavior of Rus in the twelfth and thirteenth century which he called 'a narrow-minded egoism.'

'…there emerged a new generation [which was] heroic, sacrificial, and patriotic. In other words, a people emerged who considered an ideal (or a distant prognosis) to be higher than their personal interests or accidental wishes. Although in the thirteenth century there very few of them, in the fourteenth century their children and grandchildren constituted a considerable part of society and were the embryo of a new ethnos, later called the Great Russians.'

First, he formulated a new behavioral model -- altruistic patriotism -- which for several centuries was the basis of Russia’s development. Second, he started the tradition of union with the Asiatic peoples, founded on ethnic and religious tolerance. This allowed the creation of the multi-ethnic Russian state. Finally, Alexander’s direct descendants built a new Russia from their base in Moscow.
The basis of Alexander Nevsky’s policies, which in Gumilev’s view saved the Russian ethnos at a crucial period of its history, was opposition to the West and alliance with the Mongols."

    (this is a crucial insight applicable to the role of  liturgy in the formation of conmmunal identity)
"Gumilev emphasised that most believers were ignorant of the intricate details of theological dogmas, but that this did not stop them from having firmly held beliefs. 'They simply feel the phenomenon of a world view (mirooshchushchenie) of one or the other religions and choose that version [of a religious creed] which best suits their psychological disposition.' In Gumilev’s theory, a person’s ethnic identity was formed in the early stages of their life through behavioral mimicry of their family and friends. This identity had a non-voluntary nature and, once formed, it was impossible to change."

" was based on a deep psychological pre-disposition of Russians towards this religion. On this view, the preservation of Orthodoxy was the most important factor for Russian identity in the Middle Ages."

"The alliance with the Mongols allowed Russia to preserve this most precious institution of the Orthodox Church, the safe-keeper of the unique Russian identity. In contrast to the Western Europeans, who were engaged at that time in religious crusades, the Mongols professed religious tolerance as a state policy. The Iasa of Genghis (Law Code) offered protection to any religion on condition of submission to the political authority of the Great Khan. The importance of Gumilev’s analysis for understanding Russian history lies in his view of the Russian lands as part of the socio-political system of the Mongol empire. The formation of a Russian ethnos under these circumstances had important consequences for later Russian history. Although Gumilev’s arguments are often extreme and uncompromisingly anti-Western as well as favorable to the Mongols, his work on this subject had an important influence on the debate about Russian identity. Modern Russian historians of Russia’s relations with the Tataro-Mongols have to take Gumilev’s views into account. Krivosheev argues, for example, that Gumilev’s ideas on Russia’s relations with the Mongols can no longer be simply dismissed as ‘not serious’ or ‘unscholarly’. [page 315] In this way, Gumilev helped to undermine the traditionally anti- Mongolian focus of Russian historiography.”

"In this new spiritual climate, the old Byzantine ascetic tradition of hesychasm, which had originated on Mount Athos in Greece, began to spread in Russia. It held that a person was capable of entering into a direct, personal contact with energies emanating from God. Religion should, therefore, be based on the experience of communication with God, rather than on logical premises as was the case with theology and philosophy. Hesychast monks were distinguished by their constant concentration and meditation: the name ‘hesychasm’ comes from the Greek word for ‘being silent’ or ‘being at rest.’

Gumilev argued that Athos was the center of an ideological alternative to Constantinople’s policies of rapprochement with the Latin Church, and because Athos opposed union with the West, hesychasm became popular amongst Russians. The growth of hesychast monastic centers in the fourteenth century, the most famous of which was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity [pictured] founded by Sergii of Radonezh in 1337, had far- reaching consequences."


"The only force which kept together the new emerging ethnic system was the Orthodox Church, for 'religious apostasy was considered as an exit from the system, as treason.' In these circumstances, an alliance of the metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus with Moscow was the key to Moscow’s fourteenth-century rise. Gumilev argued that the political system which emerged in fourteenth century Russia was a theocracy."

Christianity is the superethnos that resonates with every ethnos built on the sacrificial personality of passionarnost. The Church was built on the konsortsii of apostolic affinity. Christianity is not built by destroying the nations, but baptizing them. May the insights of Lev Gumilev help Russians understand their spiritual destiny.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: EO Wilson and 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. Here is a stunning two hour documentary on his work.

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, January 16, 2017

In remembrance of Martin Luther King: Sacred Selma is no bridge to Sodom

[first published March 17, 2015]

by David Pence
One of the themes preached at Brown Chapel Church in Selma, on the day before the 50-year commemoration of 'Bloody Sunday,' was how the liberated Israelites forgot their true destination and were soon worshiping false gods in the wilderness.

In the spring of 1965, local Negro Christians led a procession across the Alabama River in response to the shooting of a black Baptist deacon, Jimmie Lee Jackson, two weeks earlier. The purpose of the march was to link the shooting to the need for black voting rights in the state. The destination was Montgomery, the capital 50 miles away. When the marchers left the city limits and crossed the Pettus Bridge they came under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff and state patrol. The sheriff, Jim Clark, had called all white males over 21 to be deputized as a county posse. The state troopers were George Wallace’s men, and eager to strike a blow for a segregated "Heart of Dixie." Several national TV camera crews recorded the onslaught. A nation still capable of moral outrage was shocked.

It was several days later that Reverend Martin Luther King and ministers from across the land came for the second Selma march. They only went to the end of the bridge, obeying a federal injunction against completing the march to Montgomery. After kneeling in prayer where the violence had occurred, they then turned around. Some of the younger black activists criticized King and dubbed that day "Turnaround Tuesday." It wasn't a compliment.

The third march (Mar 21-25,1965) two weeks later was allowed and protected by federal military policemen, army troops, and a federalized Alabama national guard. They completed the march to the state capitol in Montgomery four days later. This time, preachers from all over the country and famous entertainers were in the crowd to hear Reverend King's "How Long, Not Long" speech. He praised "white Americans who cherish their democratic traditions over ugly customs and privileges of generations to come forth boldly to join hands with us." He gave a history lesson on Jesus and Jim Crow:
If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. (Yes, sir) He gave him Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, (Yes, sir) he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. (Right sir) And he ate Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. (Yes, sir) And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, (Speak) their last outpost of psychological oblivion. (Yes, sir)
He explained the many contorted forms of segregation that it took to divide a Christian nation by color:
 They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; (Yes, sir) they segregated southern churches from Christianity (Yes, sir); they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; (Yes, sir) and they segregated the Negro from everything. (Yes, sir).  
But for this Christian movement the cry of "no justice, no peace" was not a threat of violence but the continued soul-power of love restoring men to brotherhood:
"And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man."
Finally he reminded us that persistence in protest does not come from the defiant wills of clenched fists, but the open hearts of men who trust in God:

"How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?" (Yes, sir)I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because "truth crushed to earth will rise again." (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because "no lie can live forever." (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because "you shall reap what you sow." (Yes, sir)How long? (How long?) Not long: (Not long)Truth forever on the scaffold, (Speak)Wrong forever on the throne, (Yes, sir)Yet that scaffold sways the future, (Yes, sirAnd, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above his own.How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (Not long) because:Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; (Yes, sir)"
Reverend King called President Johnson's speech, given ten days earlier on the Voting Rights Act, "an address that will live in history as one of the most passionate pleas for human rights ever made by a president of our nation"; and he noted it was given by a "president born in the South."

After his speech to a joint session of Congress, LBJ ordered that protection be provided to the Selma marchers. He challenged an attentive, wary, sparsely applauding legislature:
"The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For with a country as with a person, 'What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' "
The Voting Act became law on August 8, 1965.

John Lewis, congressman from Georgia, was one of the few men who spoke at the 50-year commemoration who also marched on Bloody Sunday. In his short and stirring speech before President Obama’s address, Lewis quoted LBJ's opening words to Congress: "At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama."

Johnson said in the same Selma-inspired speech: "I want to be the president who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races, all regions, and all parties." John Lewis began his talk not addressing the dignitaries, not even the president. He said, "Beloved brothers and sisters." He said we are here to "renew the soul of America." The movement was about love -- and John Lewis still remembered. It was about love of God and love of neighbor. It was not about black men yelling 'racist' at white men, but calling them brothers and calling them to love as Christ had commanded us. It always began in churches; and there was a lot of spiritual healing and calling on Jesus to grant courage. It was about redeeming love; and we cannot properly remember this day without remembering that building the spiritual bond of civic charity was driven by the redeeming suffering love of the Gospel.  

Lewis remembered: "We walked down that sidewalk over there. With a kind of military discipline, we were so peaceful, so quiet." Listen to the voice of Lewis, listen to his plea, and the spiritual echo of that day will come clear. Only their prayer time in a church when they were not so quiet had armed them for what would come next. It was not "their will against the will of the policemen," as the president said. For when Israel fights its enemies depending only on itself -- on its own will -- it always loses. These men and women knew they were following the will of God, and that is why eventually as Lewis said, "they knew the truth would win out." It was not their will that triumphed that day. Someone else was writing in His own hand, turning the soul-force of unrequited suffering into Victory.

Rev King flanked (at far L) by Rev Abernathy and (far R) by John Lewis

It was shortly after Selma that a lot of chosen people forgot, again, where they were marching and Who was directing their march. Five months later the first great urban burning and looting riot would occur in Watts, California. That looked a lot more like the revelry at the Golden Calf, than the redeeming march through the parted waters of the Red Sea. Younger men turned the movement for Christian brotherhood into something very different -- black power, color identity, hatred, and a glorification not of redemptive suffering but redemptive violence. The Christian themes of following God’s will and reuniting a beloved community in the brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God gave way to color consciousness, sexual licentiousness, envy, greed, and wrath. “Soul” which once meant that spiritual principle of human life, which was instantly recognizable by men of every color, was turned on its head and came to be shorthand for “Black.” The jutting of the chin, the militant posture on college campuses, and the celebration of the criminal inside the confines of black ghettos had replaced the open hearts and hands seeking love.

The devil loves to tear apart. He is a divider and a liar from the beginning. He loves to come disguised as an angel of light, fighting for liberation but still peddling his same old chains of slavery.
And just what the racists had predicted started to happen. All the moral capital of the innocent, beaten by lawmen, was set aside. The march for freedom was perverted into a license for revelry -- just like the pagan erotic cult at the foot of Mount Sinai that had so angered Moses. The higher morality of love over law became the immorality of disrespect for authority and the law. "The Man" became the enemy. Another kind of male became the Superfly. Then, the greatest metaphysical error in American political history insured that the movement among men for the equality of public brotherhood was hijacked by the protest of middle-class white women against the sexual order of marriage and familial duty. This was coupled with a wild sexual rut among the males, again masquerading as a freedom train. The women said they would not be mothers and clamored for abortion, while the men said they would not be soldiers and ran from their protective duties. So many times during this forty years of wandering, the devious cults of "self" came cloaked in the sacred cloth of Selma.
"The Adoration of the Golden Calf" by Nicolas Poussin (1634)

White feminists were quite content that black men were into separatism. Back then, black men did not treat the analysis of the white chick with the obeisance we see now. The feminists left the black man his urban streets and the prisons. She and her soft white male allies took the universities, churches, and public service unions. Later, a crass calculation of everybody against the white male (down with patriarchy!) would lead to the diversity racket of electoral majorities and cottage industries in big cities, universities, and the world of non-profits. As Eric Hoffer said, "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

Black men who wanted to progress in public office drank the feminist Kool-Aid in public speeches and policy, if not in their personal lives. Religious institutions rejected the patriarchy of the Lord's Prayer for the gender obfuscation of inclusion. The widows begged for husbands and the orphans for fathers -- and in the name of civil rights we gave them sexual anarchy, making more spiritual widows and orphans than ever before in our history. Under the rubric of diversity, a coalition was struck of rights and reparation, the black power movement, the feminists, and finally the homosexuals. The party of city immigrants and working men turned into an umbrella for diversity. God was exiled, the beloved community abandoned, and idols erected by a coalition of the oppressed.

The faith-healing, Scripture reading, and Gospel singing that broke the back of racism were sent to the back of the bus. It could be resurrected when needed for nostalgia, but it could no longer be taken seriously as a spiritual organizing principle. It was not a worship of the mighty God, though He still could be evoked for the closing of speeches. It was a celebration of "us," of the humanistic pride that turned worship of God into a celebration of congregations. The people celebrate themselves, savoring the wounds of their parents while rejecting their wisdom. This communal celebration of self had happened long ago. The people set out to make a name for themselves and forgot God. They built a tower at Babel.

The ordered relationship of sexual fidelity in marriage, the purity in thought and speech toward the sacred goods of God’s name and the marriage act -- these ordered relationships became the enemy of the new freedom divorced from freedom’s Author. And that public form of Christian love -- fraternal brotherhood among adult men -- now became the love "that dare not speak its name." It became a mantra of militant black men that they did not seek to love or to be loved by the white man. Brotherhood was for wimps, and soon the wimps would rule in a way no American man of fifty years ago could ever imagine.

The integrated body politic, the black and white males in a posse for justice who would protect the widows and orphans of every color -- that dream became a joke. The marriage of a black man and white woman or a white man and black woman -- that sacred bond was now allowed. But in a bizarre twist that could only come from the twisted Father of Lies, this natural love has now become a rallying flag to honor the unnatural. Those who marched at Selma would wonder at a president who diluted their blood with such acts of sexual sacrilege. All of us who were in the movement, we exchanged our glorious God for a grass-eating bull. Elections indeed were won, a coalition with those serving other gods was struck…but what doth it profit?
Bloody Sunday in Selma

There are many more female black faces in high places, and yet so many more male black faces in jail. Every third pregnancy by a black female is aborted -- five times the rate of white women. There are black males in elected offices, but all must worship at the altar of feminism to be admitted to the club.

In his speech at Selma, President Obama broke open the moral capital of the Selma "bank account" and distributed blank checks to the sexual pretenders. It had been his honest claim as a black man to that social capital which helped him defeat an entitled feminist for the presidency in 2008. But any honest assessment of Mr. Obama reveals he has done much more for the sexual revolutionaries than for interracial brotherhood among men. He said he would be Joshua, but the feminist brain chip is the paradigm most deeply implanted in his heart. The sense of solidarity with the men of his country or the men of other cultures who rule by the traditional male forms of patriarchy and fraternity is not part of the moral grammar of this mother's son. He considers patriarchy an evil, and masculine fraternity as fun for the playground but oppressive in religion and politics.

The billy clubs and tear gas of Sheriff Clark could crack open a man's head and break up a marching crowd, but they could never touch the movement's soul. But now the blood of the martyrs has been polluted at an altar to a foreign god in the wilderness. Our souls no longer rest in the Lord. The shame of our president is that his speech at Selma was a sacrilege against a sacred space. The president, whom so many of us voted for as an act of racial reconciliation, once again used his pulpit to preach not the saving grace of brotherhood but the enslaving confusion of the sexual revolution.

The Christian movement brings us back to the original promise of the country and the truth of Scripture. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Real peace comes from deeper and broader bonds. The tenor of the Christian movement, even in its dreams, was a return to some order that lay at the heart of our nature as creatures of God with human souls. It was a check written long ago which we had come to cash. We were not looking for endless change, and more and more categories of the oppressed that might be released from social obligations and rules of decorum. We were seeking something old -- that men might live like brothers, that a man and woman might marry and raise their family in peace, that elders would be called Mister and Missus.

Selma was a place in history where the fate of a nation was hinged. It still is such a place.  As President Johnson said:
"There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans -- not as Democrats or Republicans -- we are met here as Americans to solve that problem."
President Johnson

Every crucial speech from that era reminds us this was a Christian movement of brotherhood that was deeply resonant with the initial Christian movement that formed the colonies and towns of America’s Protestant seaboard.

We cannot leave the interpretation of this day to the mistaken notion that sexual disorder is Selma's fruit. The bridge from Selma led to Montgomery, not Sodom. Montgomery was the city where the Reverends King and Abernathy first joined as ministers to unite the Negro community as Christians, and renew the whole city as a "Beloved Community" of fellow citizens. Sodom was destroyed; Montgomery was to be renewed. Selma was a spiritual movement that galvanized white and black people across the country. That’s why, within two weeks of Bloody Sunday, armed American white men protected the marchers from their persecutors. That’s why five months later a Voting Rights Act could be passed. If we can unite ourselves again under God and sing His praises loudly, then we can renew a brotherhood of fathers to socialize all our young men -- black, white and Hispanic -- into the Christian form of masculine love that is citizenship.

This spiritual renewal of the American soul is how the South will rise again. Let us be renewed in the public Biblical faith and Christian love of Selma. It is the road to the New Jerusalem which will shine with the glory of God when He comes to dwell amidst His people. Let us not ignore the living Lord or surely we shall be chastised; and the blood drawn at Selma will lose its sacred power "to renew the soul of America."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, January 14

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


TWO REPUBLICAN ENEMIES OF MR. TRUMP: John McCain played a major role in moving opposition data to security agencies. The Russian dossier on Mr. Trump was gathered by Republicans as opposition research when the party establishment was trying to derail his candidacy. McCain’s recruitment of federal agencies to evaluate and hopefully supplement  opposition research against Mr. Trump was intended to help his favorite candidate, Lindsey Graham. This abuse of his office and influence is much more the story here than the wild hooker tales about Mr. Trump.

Marco Rubio never appeared so small or so invigorated as he did during his performance in the hearings on Mr. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State. "Little Marco" took on all the big guys: Tillerson for secretary of state; and Donald Trump who is organizing a team of truly accomplished men to effect a truly different foreign and domestic policy. Finally, the cameras allowed the Florida senator an opportunity to condemn Vladimir Putin who saved Russia from Boris Yeltsin, but is a war criminal to Rubio. Mr. Trump defeated the uber-hawk wing of the Republican party in the primary. One of his alternative strategies was to engage Russia as an ally or co-belligerent against ISIS. Senator Rubio, with an eye toward a one-term Trump presidency bedeviled by tumult, is positioning himself as an opposition leader the press and anti-Trump Republicans as well as the Democratic Party can rally to.

Several of the the female senators on the Armed Services Committee bring a decidedly Human Resource approach to their duties. They are interested in breaking up the all-male group brotherhood which has served as the anthropological backbone of the military since its inception. Their fixation on this goal and the inadmissibility of questioning their core assumptions is one of the worst fruits of the Sixties cultural revolution and present-day political correctness. General Mattis was grilled but did not directly confront them on the issue. They know in the past he has said eros has no place on the battlefield. A full-throated cultural rejection of the sexual revolution is the task of public Christian culture, not officials in the Trump administration. They are giving us room. We must take back territory. Large all-male groups of brothers in a shared protective stance like male/female couples in domestic love are fundamental patterns of Christian and human agreement. Time to defend the normal. 

As President Obama leaves office and Mr. Trump seeks a new relationship with Russia, the US transferred troops and tanks to Poland. This is our largest eastern European deployment since WWII. Why now?  

CIA REFORM -- GOING TO THE PERIPHERY: An old interview with Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn on integrating intelligence and field operations. The kinetic force of drones is not enough. The Trump administration comes to office with some very definite ideas about military and intelligence reform. President George W. Bush had Condi Rice as national security advisor. President Obama had Susan Rice. President Trump has General Flynn. Which president has the best chance to have a coherent foreign policy?

TRUMP BY MILITARY HISTORIAN VICTOR DAVIS HANSONInsights from one of the few writers who supported Trump at a magazine deeply opposed to his candidacy from the right.



UNDERSTANDING ISRAEL - AT WAR WITH IRAN: Ya'alon: Iran, Not ISIS, Is Israel's Central Enemy - Yonah Jeremy Bob, "Former defense minister Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon said Monday that the IDF operation against Hamas in 2014 had brought 'complete quiet' on the Gaza front, despite small groups of Salafists who occasionally fire rockets. He added that the Lebanese, Syrian and Jordanian borders are all relatively quiet and that threats from jihadists in Sinai do not rise beyond a certain threshold.
"Ya'alon also noted, 'Everyone views ISIS as an enemy. For us, Iran is still the central enemy and suddenly it changed to part of the solution for the U.S.' He argued that Iran is exploiting the current situation to 'acquire hegemonic power in the region.' Ya'alon expressed hope that President-elect Trump would take a stronger stance to press Iran to reduce its sponsorship of terror." [Jerusalem Post]

If President Trump organizes the anti-Salafist forces in the region against ISIS this will necessitate a breaking of the de facto alliance of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Right now, Israel is fighting a very different strategic war than the US. Israel has basically joined the Saudi regional anti-Shiite campaign as a continuation of its war with Iran waged since 1979. Slogans like "no light between us" do not clarify the disastrous reality of US/Israel cross purposes. This is one fundamental cause of the incoherence of  US Mideast policy. Here is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s map of Israel’s True Enemies: Five Countries.

IN GERMANY AND FRANCE, LEADERS NAME THE SALAFIST ENEMY: A German and a Frenchman have brought refreshing clarity to the nature of the fight against the Salafist jihadists. It sounds tough to say all of Islam is the enemy, but that remains a recipe for inaction spiced with hate. To say terrorism has nothing to do with Islam is the failed mantra of the last decades. So it is quite significant that in both Germany and France the real enemy is being named. In Germany, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel says the Salafist mosques must be banned and their preachers deported. That will take some sorting out, but sorting out is what the war on one part of Islam is all about.

In France, presidential candidate and Catholic Francois Fillon is equally specific. He wants a grand coalition of all those powers, including Iran and Hezbollah, that are willing to fight the Islamic State, which he regards as Enemy No. 1. That is the same alignment of the guns that Russia saw years ago, and we have advocated in our writing.


RACE AND TORTURE IN CHICAGO - CHICAGO HEADLINE SAYS "APPARENT" RACIAL ATTACK: Don’t want to jump to judgment when a disabled white guy is tied and tortured on video with racist taunts against Trump filling the air. A Chicago paper in "reporting" didn’t use the quotes, just said the torturer was incoherent. This kind of reporting is not a double standard -- it is a lie. The media miss again.

HUMAN RIGHTS, THE RELIGIOUS IDEA OF THE PERSON IS NOT MODERN INDIVIDUALISMSome history of religious ideas in the 1930-40’s that precede the human rights revolution in politics.

GENDER EQUALITY AND FOREIGN POLICYThese people were at the top of the Obama policy team on this cultural mission. Tom Donilon was a top national security advisor, and Catherine Russell was/is ambassador at large on women issues. Their religion was to disrupt the human ecology of gender differences and they were missionaries about it. The disruption of the natural masculine bond to protect shared territory (all females and children included) undermines our real national security. The Obama presidency was a much more effective battering ram for the sexual revolution than for interracial brotherhood. Just as the adults returned after the Chinese cultural revolution and reestablished order, Americans must end the war on human nature waged by feminism and gender ideology against the protective patterns of Christian culture.

ASTONISHED AT CARDINALS' PUBLIC DUBIA TO THE POPE: An argument not to publicly buck the Pope from Cardinal Mueller of the CDF. In this momentous time of national ferment in America, it is incredible how much of the Catholic conservative press is miniaturized in petulance against Pope Francis. For a century we have prayed for the conversion of Russia and now as the new openings present themselves, the Catholic intellectuals are absorbed with other matters. The Catholic layman is needed at the wall of his city, but he is down in a self-constructed catacomb deluding himself that Christianity is collapsing under the pope from Argentina.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday BookReview -- ARMENIA: the Calvary of the first Christian nation

[first published February 13, 2015]

"Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?" 

(The question offered by Hitler on the eve of his invasion of Poland, 
Sept 1939 -- one week after the Nazis and Soviets had become allies)


A couple months from now, Armenians will mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre of their forebears by the Ottoman Turks. More than a million and a half perished. 

In many ways this slaughter was both a revolt against the Islamic structure of the disintegrating Ottoman Empire by the modern  nationalism of the Young Turks, as well as a mass murder of an Orthodox people who slowed the way of the emerging ethnic secular nation of Turkey.     

(It is one of the current causes for the increasing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The latter has more than three times the population of Armenia, and far greater wealth because of the Caspian Sea oil.)

This five-minute ABC News report provides an overview of the first of the world's many twentieth-century genocides.

From a review of a book by an Armenian priest, an eyewitness of the slaughter:
Given recent history, it would seem the term "ethnic cleansing" is of late 20th Century origin. Armenian Golgotha, Grigoris Balakian's firsthand account of the genocide during World War I, disabuses any such notion. Balakian notes several times that the Ottoman Empire embarked on an intentional campaign to "cleanse" itself of Armenians... 
Balakian was one of some 250 Armenian intellectuals and leaders arrested by government order in Constantinople on April 24, 1915, the event commonly viewed as the beginning of the campaign against Armenians in Turkey. Calling what ensued "cleansing" is perhaps the least blunt description used in his memoir. Perhaps that is because Balakian attributes its use to a police captain who escorted him during part of his trip into exile. According to Balakian, "the Turks always used this term, especially the government officials, when referring to the massacre of Armenians."  
Massacre is a term used far more often [by Balakian]... He frequently says the Ottoman Empire's actions were a deliberate plan to "annihilate" or "to completely exterminate the Armenian race." First published in 1922, Armenian Golgotha was, sadly, a preview of what the world would become all too familiar with later in the 20th Century, whether the Holocaust in World War II or the "ethnic cleansing" that occurred in Europe, Asia, and Africa later in the century. Yet Balakian never uses the term genocide. There's good reason — it was not coined until 1943...  
Armenian Golgotha is actually a combination of two separate volumes written by Balakian after the war. The first, called "The Life of an Exile" in the book, was the work published in Armenian in 1922 and covers Balakian's life from the beginning of the war through his journey from Constantinople toward Der Zor, an outpost in today's Syria abutting a vast desert where thousands of Armenians died. The second volume, "The Life of a Fugitive," details his escape and two years of disguises, false identities, and struggles in an often harrowing effort to return to Constantinople. It was not published until 1959, some 55 years after his death, when it was discovered among his sister's papers when she died. With the assistance of a variety of people, American poet and author Peter Balakian began translating the work into English in 1999, a process that culminated in the book's publication in the U.S. in 2009. The book was released in trade paper last month.  
Balakian relates the stories of massacre upon massacre on the forced marches to exile... In addition to outright murder, thousands would die along the way or in overcrowded, filthy camps whose conditions Balakian says the Turks created in the hope of starting epidemics... 
"In reality," Balakian writes, "deport was synonymous with murder." In fact, "the life an Armenian was worth less than that of a chick or chicken."  
The effects of these events on individuals is seen even in Balakian. Although he credits his survival to his faith, there are times it appears even that comes into question. At one point, rather than pointing to prayer, he observes that "believing that wishing for something could make it happen, I used to repeat over and over to those around me, 'I have decided not to die.'" And the seemingly endless horror and atrocities leads him to conclude later that "we'd been abandoned by both God and mankind; our only salvation was the grave, but we couldn't even count on that."  
Balakian's perspective is unique in other respects. Fluent in Armenian, Turkish and German, he was able to speak directly with individuals who experienced or observed the events from a wide variety of standpoints. In addition, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Austria-Hungary throne, was assassinated in 1914 and war was subsequently declared, Balakian was studying in Berlin and provides firsthand accounts of events there. And on November 13, 1918, he saw 44 warships of the Entente fleet steam past Constantinople into the Bosphorus.  
In addition to the extreme and excruciating events during the war, Balakian also recognizes an outcome that, while not physically painful or fatal, was at least as damaging and deadly for Armenians as a whole. He repeatedly comments that the deaths of the Armenian "martyrs" and one of the hopes that kept survivors going was that in pursuit of an independent Armenian nation once the war was over. Yet that dream was little more than false hope based on a belief the Entente powers were fighting for "rights and justice" and on misleading promises. "After the Armistice, all such promises would soon be forgotten, as each victorious power aimed first to secure the lion's share of territory for itself," Balakian writes. "An oil field would prove much more valuable than the fate of a small and weak Christian people." Thus, although an independent Armenian republic was proclaimed, in late 1920 it was invaded and subsumed by Turkey and the Soviet Union, giving pause to whether the suffering of the Armenians was meaningless.  
Those who deny or dispute whether the Ottoman Empire embarked on a genocidal campaign against the Armenians will, of course, find Armenian Golgotha biased and one-sided. Others will find it an excruciating firsthand account of ethnic torment. But the somewhat surprising fact that the Armenian genocide continues to cause debate nearly a century later doesn't detract from the fact Balakian accomplished his main goal — to commemorate the events of 1914-1918 and the people caught up in them.

Armenia was the first nation to embrace Christ en masse -- so early, in fact, it predated the Council of Nicaea by more than 20 years! Their gratitude for this is centered on their patron saint, Gregory the Illuminator.

The capital since 1918, Yerevan, has a population of a million (one-third of nation). The main religious center of Armenia, however, is Etchmiadzin -- the fourth largest city.
Etchmiadzin Cathedral

From the poem "Wishes for Armenia" by Bedros Tourian, who died very young of consumption (1872):

The starry sky no comfort brings:
To me it seems a veil
Strewn with the tears that Ararat
Sheds from his summit pale...

Armenia’s mountains dark may smile,
Siberia’s ice may smoke,
But stern, unbending spirits still
Press on my neck the yoke.
Inflexible and cold are they;
When feeling surges high,
And I would speak, they stifle down
My free soul’s bitter cry.
Forget thee, justice ? Never!
But ere my life departs,
Rather may I become a sword,
And make thee pierce men’s hearts!

When e’en the rich man and the priest
A patriot’s ardor feel,
And when Armenian hearts at length
Are stirred with love and zeal —
When free-souled sons Armenia bears,
These days of coldness past,
And fires of love and brotherhood
Are lighted up at last —
Shall I forget thee then, my lyre?
Ah, no ! but when I die
Rather may I become thy voice,
And o’er Armenia sigh!

UPDATE: One European visitor said he had to be almost dragged away from the Noravank monastery set in the red hills, it was so fascinating.

Here is an article on the newest Doctor of the Church.