Tuesday, June 20, 2006

American Protestant Pogroms

Tell me again about Europe and her pains,
Who's tortured by the drought, who by the rains.
Glut me with floods where only the swine can row
Who cuts his throat and let him count his gains.
It seemed the best thing to be up and go.

               — From “Aubade”, by William Empson

There are so many degraded behaviors and beliefs in our culture that attempting to delineate them quickly devolves into the feeling that one is watching a train wreck in slow motion. Only this time it’s a disaster with many people you love and used to respect on board and there is nothing you can do to alter their zombie-like condition. In fact, you wonder if you can even save yourself as the train continues to plow on through, hurtling in your direction…and you’re tied to the tracks, directly in its path.

We keep comparing ourselves to Europe and her plight, hoping to draw some comfort from the fact that while we may be trying to divert this evil train from its rails, Europe’s train has long since wrecked and the bloody survivors are trudging down the road to oblivion.

Well, dream on. Whatever cultural superiority we can derive from that comparison is cold comfort when you look at the depth and breadth of the problems that face our republic. These are problems that ought to be able to be rectified in a country allegedly governed by and for the people, but who could have dreamed the form into which our imperial and corrupt governance has metastasized? It defies full comprehension, much less full discussion.

So I’m going to take, for the purposes of examination, one small piece of this poisonous, malformed tumor that has begun to pass for American culture: Christian religion. In general, aside from the secularized fraction of the intellectual elitists, Americans pride themselves on the fact that religion in the public square is still possible, and that the majority of us seem to profess some kind of belief beyond the Tivo selection in front of us.

But that belief is part of the problem, because the general direction of mainstream Christianity has taken a malign and destructive turn. In fact, it has become downright anachronistic on a number of levels. It used to be that the “fundamentalists” and the Catholic Church were the groups accused of looking back to some Golden Age where Christian values and behaviors reigned supreme. This view was considered anti-intellectual and the leading lights sniggered over their dry chablis at the collective stupidity and atavism of such fools.

Now it is the progressive, anti-knowledge intellectuals who long to return to a more pristine past, whether it be the peace and harmony of the American Indians Native Americans (and here’s a prediction: soon, the word “American” will be stricken from that term and some more politically correct, less hateful noun will be found to describe the descendants of those who made their way through the Bering Strait and began to settle here millennia ago. “Native American” will be added to list of Verboten Usage, where it will join Negro, Black, lady, etc) before the evil white man arrived, or the tribal coherence and tranquility of the African tribes before the white man dragged so many thousands to their deaths or to the living death of slavery in Amerikkka. And, of course, there is the paradisiacal, persecuted Cuba which, if we would only leave them alone, would blossom fully into the people’s heaven on earth. For some reason, China is no longer au courant in the paradise department. Too much truth leaked out, perhaps. Or maybe China, with its increasing appetites for technology and modern life looms larger as a threat than it used to for the utopian movers and shakers. China kills utopians; that information may have finally gotten through the elitist barricade erected against reality. It happens sometimes.

But there is another side to their nostalgic backward glances, though they have managed to find some half-plausible cover for their designs — which are as ancient as early recorded history and as new as today’s front page. And that nostalgia is concerned with the eradication of the Jews. The Joos. The Zionist Entity. The swine and apes. The sub-human ones. Don’t kid yourself: rabid anti-Semitism is alive and well in the higher reaches of American society. It has always been there, but only lately has it learned to cloak itself as something else.

One of the most appalling features of our cultural disaster is this anti-Semitism as it is currently practiced in mainline Christian churches in this country. The edicts, committee reports, and resolutions pouring out in the name of the poorpalestinians — for that is now one word among these leaders — all have the same goal. Their stated purpose is to alleviate the suffering of the poorpals, and their committees all seem to have anachronistically Marxist-sounding names with words like “Justice” and “Peace” and “Concern” in the titles. Just like the good old fronted Communist groups in the fifties, the ones aimed at labor groups and later at civil rights organizations. Let’s face it, the Communists stole all the good titles and now the churches must steal them in turn. They might as well, given that their goals are often similar, and equally malign.

Let’s call this posturing by the churches at least one of the things it is: willful blindness to the reality on the ground. A visiting Martian would ask what these Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians have been smoking to bring on this stone-blind demonstration of Jew-hatred disguised as Palestinian love. And the alien’s question might explain it all. That is, all the drugs ingested by these people in their youth (and now risen to positions of power) have left a residual brain damage. Instead of the cognitive deficits some substance abusers exhibit, church leaders seem to suffer from a sort of drug-induced cortical inability to parse moral differences. This deficit leaves them with an overweening need to find victims to whom they can show tolerance, while also searching for villains on whom to project the world’s problems. Enter the Jews, those eternal scapegoats that all the righteous Christians love to loathe.

Before the drugs arrived, the parents and grandparents of these church leaders had no problem discerning the need for a Jewish state. They were clearly able to see the valor of the remnant left after Hitler’s orgy and the world’s indifference, the remnant that made it to Israel and built a flourishing civilization out of desert and sand fleas. As waves of envious Arabs swept in to drive the Judenschwein into the sea, American aid and American good will cheered on the amazing efforts of the Israelis to stand fast in the face of such personally directed evil. After all, they were used to it. “Never again,” they said — and at the time they meant it.

No sane person questioned their strategy of holding onto parts of the territory the fleeing, defeated Arabs were forced to leave behind. After all, have not nations done that from time immemorial? It makes it harder for your enemies to attempt another attack. Not impossible, just more difficult. Large parts of southwestern America were acquired in just that way during our war with Mexico.

But that’s history, and Christian churches are weak on history, even and especially their own. Besides, can there be any doubt that Mexico’s histrionic envy is on the agenda for mainstream American churches? It’s a subject sure to be addressed after they’ve finished off Israel, our racism, and the victimization of gays. Yes, Mexico’s former territory is on the agenda all right; it’s just too far down the list to see as yet. First, there are all these other burning issues.

A pogromLeaders in our churches are working actively on the destruction of Israel under the guise of aid to the poorpals. In that respect, they are not one whit different from the righteous Christian hordes of old, with their pogroms and viciously dependable destruction of Jewish communities. Actually, there is one whit of difference: they are more sophisticated at disguising their homicidal projections onto their chosen scapegoats, tricking out their hatreds in the finery of brotherly love for the down-trodden, peace-loving poorpals. These are the same poorpals who kidnap Christian workers, torture and kill them, hold them for ransom, and destroy or desecrate Christian churches in the Palestinian Territories. These useful church idiots serve well in their masochistic piece of the sadomasochistic drama that Palestine plays with reality. In that respect, Palestine and American church leaders are equals. Neither of them is wired real tight to the facts on the ground. It is not in their interests to be so.

Ask yourself: what moral imperative informs the attitudes of these church leaders toward Israel? What is it that drives them to help obliterate the very root from which their churches spring? What in God’s name permits them to close their ears to the wishes of those in the pews, who disagree almost totally with their secularized, pomo vision. Where is the ecclesia in this witches’ brew of hatred, intolerant tolerance, and politically correct insanity? It is behavior which provokes one to ponder the reality of a personification of Evil out there somewhere, pulling the strings of a group of addled do-badders.

Ask yourself: who gave them the right to judge Israel and find it wanting? Is it the fact that Israel was the only democracy in the Middle East (and may return to that status if Iraq does not succeed)? Is their judgment at all connected to their similar judgments about America and her presence in the Middle East? And how do they manage to blind themselves to the presence of Hezbollah in Beirut or Hamas in Palestine? What part of “jihad” do they fail to understand?

Ask yourself: why Israel instead of Somalia or Pakistan or any of the miserable failed states where Christians are persecuted, driven from their homes without recompense and forced to convert? Why aim your sights at Jews when it is others who are killing Christians? What kind of emotional perversion leads to a situation in which those in authority do not feel called upon to speak up for their own?

Ask yourself all these questions, as I do, endlessly. If you come up with any responses that could possibly redeem behavior which seems driven by evil, hubris, or moral stupidity, please let me know. I could use some understanding here.

Meanwhile, as the Presbyterians vote, let me remind you that these whited sepulchers are giving a new meaning to post-Christian.

Let me also remind you that despite appearances, God is not dead. He is simply waiting for us to wake up and boot these money-changers out of the temple.

34 comments:

Zerosumgame said...

Wonderful post.

Yet when I get together with family (I'm the lone Republican in a family of liberal Democrats), and all I hear is about how redneck and bigoted the Evangelical Christians are, how their support for Israel is phony because it is just a ploy to convert Jews, and how a fundamentalist Christian is no different from a fundamentalist Muslim -- somehow, they equate protesting outside an abortion clinic with flying airplanes into buildings.

So, since I'm Jewish, I can say this -- a lot of my fellow Jews in America are left-wing bigots. And they get angry when you call them on it.

Zerosumgame said...

I'd also like to add here that the "Mainline" churches, are dying -- literally and figuratively.

I live in the Northeast, and I have seen who comes out of the services of Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist churches on Sunday -- and few are under the age of 60.

They are like the MSM -- lost in their Marxist, fantasy world, their influence rapidly shrinking while they still delude themselves into thinking that what they say matters to most people.

bioqubit said...

We'll just say the issue is complicated. But first, I just want to add two counter-points. Criticism of or doubts about the worth of a Jewish state do not, I repeat, do not, make you anti-semitic. There are too many entities (I don't know what else to call them)that mindlessly lash out at anyone who disagrees with anything Jewish. I treat my knowledge of these matters as partial. So, no surprise, any commentary I have to offer will get attacked no matter what.

The second point is that what you are calling mainstream Christianity is not "where the action is". If I read your piece correctly, you left out the pro-Israel Christians who are so eager for Judgement Day to arrive as soon as possible, if not sooner. While the Israelis are pleased that a group conventionally perceived as antagonistic is instead a big supporter, it is overshadowed by the fact that they believe completely in the piece of Christian prophecy that requires the destruction of the State of Israel as a key pre-condition for the return of Christ.

I believe the Bible calls for every last Jewish individual to return to the homeland for the prophecy to be fulfilled. I think current estimates are only around 20-25% of all known Jewish peoples who have returned to Israel.

So, you have this group of fundamentalists that also are calling for all Jewish peoples to return to Israel. But for what? So, biblical prophecy of massive death and destruction can be fulfilled as part of Christ's return? With friends like these...

Dymphna said...

Bio-

your points are so old that by now they must be ready to draw Social Security.

You did not address the issues I raised, you simply raised your own -- and specious points they are indeed.. I suggest you get your own blog and I will come over and squat on the comments, so distorting your post that not even you will recognize it.

If you do have a blog, by all means leave us a link.

Now, go sneer somewhere else...and you're right: people tend to "attack" those who drop their spoor and add zilch to the dialogue. If you must be ugly, be original.

Matt said...

zerosumgame:
"I'd also like to add here that the "Mainline" churches, are dying -- literally and figuratively."

I've observed the same thing in Ontario. The churches that thrive are the ones that stick to their guns, not the ones that try to institutionalize trendy platitutudes. Which isn't really surprising: from a Gramscian point of vierw, the whole point of subverting churches is to render them un-neccessary.

From the Post:
"[A]ll the drugs ingested by these people in their youth (and now risen to positions of power) have left a residual brain damage. Instead of the cognitive deficits some substance abusers exhibit, church leaders seem to suffer from a sort of drug-induced cortical inability to parse moral differences."

I've seen this before, the idea that drug use and leftwing politics are linked. I'm not so sure about that, or more precisely, while there is such a link, I think it's circumstantial, not causal.

I used drugs pretty heavily throughout my early twenties, and my politics have been pretty consistently libertarian/rightwing. One of my better friends smoked heroic amounts of really good shit, and he's probablty the most capitalist person I know. Now, I've observed a lot of potheads who believe silly things, too, but I'd submit that a softheaded fool will be a softheaded fool independant of drug use. There was marxism long before drugs were popular.

Dymphna said...

zerosum-

Yep, the churches are dying. The Episcopal Church, which I call the Incredible Shrinking Church, has devolved to the point of invisibility. That's why it's forced to do headline grabbers like gay bishops and endless racism workshops.

Notice, too, that those churches you watch empty out on Sunday morning are not integrated except for rare occasions.

Now THERE is an intractable issue on the home court they could try addressing. The black Episcopalians in our diocese have their own seminary and they don't found churches with our lily-white selves. Meanwhile, the diocese -- the whole national church -- *mandates* racism workshops. Of course I don't go. Nor will I ever waste my time at one. In my other blog I put up a letter to the editor of our diocesan newspaper called "No More Mea Culpas For Breathing While White" -- they never printed it, of course, but having a blog gave me a place to leave it. A more satisfying place, in fact.

BTW, I remember the culture shock when I met my first pro-Arab Jew. Of course, he'd made a lot of money in the Middle East while in the "Foreign Service" in a nepotism job, so I could kind of see his allegiance, but hers left me puzzled. I've also got a friend who's an ex-Zionist, concentration camp survivor (as a baby), and who is rabidly anti-Israel. He's been booted from temple more than once...can't shut up about it.

But that's part of the Jewish paradox, I guess.

ScottSA said...

Matt said: "I've observed the same thing in Ontario. The churches that thrive are the ones that stick to their guns, not the ones that try to institutionalize trendy platitutudes."

I agree, and so does astudyI'vereadbutcan'trememberthename. How can a Church teach immutably truths if they start from the assumption that the truths are not immutable after all?

Dymphna said...

Matt--

The drug induced moral deficits ws supposed to be ironic. It was just a pointer to the qualitative difference between the self-absorbed boomers and their parents' world view. That's why I dropped the alien in to assess the scene.

Of course it's far more complicated than that -- as life has turned out to be far more complicated than we thought it would be after the fall of Communism.

Yeah, I know some of those same dopers. Some escaped unscathed, some are a bit spacey. The latter seemed to be drawn later to communal living.

____

ScottSA--

IMMUTABLE truths? God forbid. What progressive can bear a truth without wiggle room? But you're right: the more conservative church groups are also more stable, even as they grow. One of the more conservative RC dioceses in the mid-West has had a surge in ordination candidates -- and they are certified heterosexual and unmarried.

I don't think we've worked out enough knowledge about sexuality/gender/dimorphism in the human species to fool around much with the rules...

...and even though I once studied for the ministry I am beginning to have my doubts about women being ordained. Which really puts me in the neanderthal section. I don't mean not ever, I mean let's hold it till we know more than we think we do...hubris is a very difficult characterological flaw. We simply haven't glommed the possible unintended consequences.

Of course, I have my doubts about a "professional" priesthood anyway, unless it's in monastic orders. Priests ought to have to make a real living like the rest of us. We should return to that tradition. At least St. Paul would approve.

Anybody for carpentry?

Jauhara said...

Dymphna, I know this is totally offtopic, but I thought you might appreciate it nevertheless, since you are talking about antisemitism in the Mainline Churches in America.

Okay, no prescient point to make, just an observation. As a JewlovingIsraelSupportingChristian,I don't wish for Judgment Day at all, since Judgment begins with the House of the Lord...if the above poster would read his scriptures, but back to my off topic.
Please go to Netflix and rent the movie James Journey to Jerusalem....you won't be disappointed.

Jauhara said...

My kids were involved with a PresbyterianUSA play for Easter, called celebrate the vision...which my youngest at the time called Celebrate Division.

The play was a solipsistic throwback to the 1960s, and on Easter, the church seemed rather empty. Intersesting, when I read the letters to the seven churches in Asia, found at the beginning of Revelations: I simply replace the names with mainstream denominational names, and the letters make a whole lot more sense!

Carl in Jerusalem said...

First of all, great article.

Second, bioqubit - the largest Jewish community in the world is now in Israel. More Jews here than in the United States. We're approaching a majority of the world's Jews living in Israel (and France is rapidly pushing us in that direction). That has all kinds of Jewish law implications, but that's another issue for another day.

Third, the reason so many 'liberal' Jews are anti-Israel is because what they're practicing isn't Judaism - it's Liberalism. Many of these people assume that what they call 'Jewish values' equates with 'liberal values.' They don't. Much of their 'religion' is based on scriptural interpretation, but some of it is just plain willful blindness.

But thanks for the article - I've linked to it on my blog.

Carl in Jerusalem said...

PIMF - That should have been scriptural MISinterpretation.

AggieGabe said...

'bioqubit'..if you want talk about christian beliefs,Mr.Abe foxman or JDL may not the best sources. I find that nowhere does the christian bible call for destruction of Israel for the second coming of christ.I do agree that Christians have a vested interest in the preservation of Israel and infact, it was the Evangelical Christians from Britian who were the prime movers for the creation of the State of Isreal.Episcopalians or Presbyterians are not the best representatives of christians in the United States,who are losing congregations by the day and moving away from traditional scriptural interpretations.When I lived in Texas I did not meet a single christian who subscribed to their views.Some of the biggest supporters of Jews are the Baptists and the charismatic denominations.One of Israel's biggest supporters is Pastor John Hagee out of San Antonio.(www.jhm.org)

Zerosumgame said...

Dymphna:

This is a personal question, so you need not answer it, but if you are so out of synch with the politics and morals of the modern day Episcopal Church, have you thought of leaving it?

It reminds me of two people in media who did just that -- Laura Ingraham (who became Catholic), and Stuart Varney (technically, he was Anglican), who became a Pentecostalist.

Second, it is also interesting to note that apart from Red State America, the conservatives in the Episcopal/Anglican movement, IIRC, are in Africa and other developing nations. This is part of a phenomenon that perhaps you or Baron can comment on -- as Europe, Canada and coastal America veer left, how increasingly Middle America, which stands by traditional Western Civilization, is actually more and more divorcing itself from the modern West, and approaching some Asian values -- emphasis on hard work, self-responsibility, belief in a strong nuclear family.

M. Simon said...

Bad philosophy is way more dangerous than bad drugs.

In any case since the right can no longer hate Jews, drug users will have to take their place. I'm not sure that is an improvement.

Given crap like this, if the Ds ever ran Lieberman, he'd get my vote in a heartbeat. As Bill Whittle says: If the Republicans ran unopposed they would lose elections. Deservedly so. Fortunately they have the Democrats. I'm not sure how long the Ds will last before a real opposition party arises. The Rs need to make maximum use of the opportunity while it lasts.

Oh yeah. Down with drug users. They deserve every bit of persecution they are getting, for being so evil. Kick a hippy for Jesus or something. Moral uplift all the way.

M. Simon said...

I'm one of those self absorbed boomers. Used to vote Libertarian. Now it is mostly Republican. Although Communist Obama got my vote over theocon Keyes. And I'm Jewish. And at one time I was a Democrat/Communist. Guess that makes me a neo-con now. LOL.

Stick with ideas; avoid stereotypes. Avoid trotting out the usual suspects. Your arguments will hold up better in the long run.

Did I mention I hate the drug war?

Is Addiction Real?

If that rock ever gets lifted the Republicans (as its major supporters) will be in a world of hurt.

Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime,
It won't prohibit worth a dime,
It's filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we're for it.

Franklin P. Adams, 1931

Now ask yourself, what major political event happened in 1932 that changed the political landscape for 50 years?

M. Simon said...

I believe in a nuclear family. I'm a former Naval Nuke and my brother-in-law is a reactor operator in Michigan. Can't get much more nuclear than that.

And if you are considering a religion change why not become a Jew? Back to the old time religion. If it was good enough for Jesus...

Matt said...

Dymphna: I'm cool with irony. I figured you were going for that, but I just wanted to make sure not all of us shiftless stoners were being tarred with the same brush ;) Like M. Simon says, 'bad philosophy is way more dangerous than bad drugs.' Who would you trust more, a clean-living Lenin or a brandy-chugging, cigar-chomping Churchill?

zerosumgame: Yeah, I've heard the same thing. Didn't the episcopalians nearly split along continental lines during the whole gay pastors thing, about a year ago? People don't want a religion that blows with the wind, or more accurately, people who want religion don't want one like that. They want a rock. That's probably part of why a stern, uncompromising faith like Islam is so successful at keeping 'reverts'.

I'm not sure it's really important if the old denominations are getting all PC. They'll just write themselves into irrelevance if they do, and other Christian denominations will take their place (actually, I think this has already largely happened.) Kind of like what's happening with the MSM....

Jason_Pappas said...

Religion is not impervious to secular trends. It never has. Paul was an educated Hellenized Jew; Augustine incorporated philosophy; Constantine made his mark; Aquinas was one of the greatest philosophers as well as theologians, etc. I think that’s part of what we are seeing. There is a reciprocal relation. While it’s true that the left doesn’t acknowledge how much religion influences the general culture; I think one must also acknowledge how much the general culture influences religion.

While religion, being traditional, can be a natural conservative force, it also can be a revolutionary force. Edmund Burke, ever the advocate of established religions traditions, was fearful of Cromwells as much as Robespierres. “Enthusiasms” were something conservatives used to worry about. The interesting thing that you’re pointing out is the opposite. Long established churches are not the staid and stable institutions many conservatives had hoped. The influence of outside secular forces is indeed far greater than most people realize.

One final note to consider; it may seem odd as we urge Muslims to take their religion less literally, accept modernity, and stress sensible passages, at the same time many seek to stand firm against secular liberalizing trends influencing Christianity. I suggest that those influences are unavoidable. It’s just a question of being conscious, critical, cautious, and selective. Being an outsider of such denomination issues, I prefer to remain silent on the detailed discussion. But being part of the larger culture, we share a problem. I believe it originates in the larger culture and can’t be quarantined.

airforcewife said...

This is my own interpretation, but I do believe that the liberal anti-semitism is of a much different brand than the anti-semitism of the past and of the Muslim world.

The new "progressive" anti-semitism is based, I think, on the fact that being a victim is the newest high point on an interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy. The best thing a person can be is a victim, and then to talk about it incessently. Victims, those who claim their problems are all based on someone else and beyond their control, are the top of the liberal food chain.

The Jews of Israel are not victims, despite thousands of years of being victimized. They move ahead and beyond the victimization.

Deep down, I suspect that those "progressives" who talk about the "poorpalestinians" and the hideous Israelis very much know that they are far weaker than the Israelis, and in the same situation would absolutely have been the victims that Israel has worked so hard not to be.

Not that the "progressives" would EVER admit that...

Dymphna said...

M Simon--

What?? Is something bad philosophy because it bites little old *you* on the ankle? If you'd read the other comments before wading into the water, you'd have known the reference to drugs was meant to be irony. Thus the reference, in the same para, to Martians...

I'm against the drug war, too. So what? My father was hopelessly addicted and sold the house from under us several times just to fund his habit. Back in those days, women couldn't own their own homes if they were married so we were at his mercy for a place to live. The kids ended up in an orphanage and he, shamed beyong bearing, found a doctor to give him a lobotomy in order to cure his addiction so he could be a "decent father." Good sentiments -- bad outcome. It cured his addiction and made him a good hospital patient till the day he died thirty years later.

So I don't like drugs but that doesn't mean I think the war on drugs amounts to anything but a wasteful boondoggle.

My point? well, there are several: (a) you're deaf to irony (or you don't read the text closely), and (b) you bruise yourself jumping to conclusions about my unstated assumptions. Just because I said *ironically* that it must be the moral deficits caused by drug use does not imply that I am on the side of the drug wars. You inferred that based on your own prejudices.

You can't tell irony from sterotype, boy. Amazing you passed the eye test for military duty. Keep working on it, though, maybe you'll get there. Perhaps I should put up a little emoticon to indicate irony so the impaired can be warned ahead of time.

Here's another sterotype for you: a handicap in irony usually indicates a handicap in wit and humor...just saying.

As for the odyssey of your political philosophy, do you think it's any different than the one most of the rest of us have journeyed? It's not.

Go be unpleasant somewhere else. Three inane comments and you've already worn out your welcome, sweet pea.

Dymphna said...

airforce wife--

You are such a deeply *nice* person, and it shows. To think that these people railing about divestment and trying to bring the Caterpillar Corp to its knees don't (in my opinion) think any such thing "deep down." In fact, they are prisoners of their milieu and if they want to stay in it, then they contort themselves in order to do so. Larry Summers taught us that.

I like your idea that being a victim is the latest high point on Maslow's hierarchy. First you reach full realization and then you get to move on to victimhood. Brilliant!

Yes, the present day anti-semites are different from the Cossacks. History can't really repeat itself except very partially. In fact, the current ones are worse because they operate in the back lit scene of the Holocaust, which some of them now attempt to erase.

Dymphna said...

Jason Pappas said --

Religion is not impervious to secular trends. It never has. Paul was an educated Hellenized Jew; Augustine incorporated philosophy; Constantine made his mark; Aquinas was one of the greatest philosophers as well as theologians, etc.

Exactly. The influence of the Hellenes on Jewish thought was profound. And Augustine, by seeking to make Christianity philosophically coherent, saved remnants of Greek philosophy we'd not have otherwise. As for Thomas and the rest of the Scholastics...well, that was back when philosophy and not experimental work was considered the Queen of the Sciences. And like many "scientists" since, Aquinas thought he'd "summed" it all up (sorry for the pun on his Summa). One of the fascinating things about his life was that at the end of it he pronounced his work "straw" and he didn't write again.

Religion continues to draw on philosophy, and it in turn draws on physics. To the extent that theology keeps up with physics, to that extent it remains vital and evolving. That's one reason I like Process Theology, based as it is on modern mathematics and physics.

Religion must also keep up with economics if it's not to be subsumed by out-dated economic theories. Our mainstream churches are all socialistic. The clock stopped for them in the last century with "peace and justice, etc." It's a static world view, one which sees scarcity as the boundary of what is possible.

Two places to look at: the blog One Cosmos and the Lord Acton Institute. The former deals with religion and physics, the latter with religion and market economics. Don't have the links, but this reminds me to put them on the side bar the next time we update!

There is much more ferment in theology than is usually recognized. That giant ship of a church, the RC, is making -- however slowly it has to be, given its size -- the adjustments needed to bring it back into deep waters. Fortunately for the times, Benedict is a real historian and a real intellectual.

Thanks for your input.

New Radical said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
New Radical said...

Dymphna:

I found your post very interesting, most of all because the trends you see developing are very different from what I'm seeing in my neck of the woods. I live in the Southeastern United States, in a city sometimes called the "buckle of the Bible belt." I grew up in a family with strong, fundamentalist Southern Baptist roots, and all of the churches I attended were very pro-Israel. In my late teenage years, I began studying Christian doctrine more closely, and became disenchanted with many Baptist teachings, dispensationalism being chief among them.

I attended a liberal arts college with religious affiliation that could best be described as "reformed" (WORLD magazine is linked to the same denomination). It was a rocky period in my life, and without going into too much detail, I will say that I was forced to confront myself about what I truly believed and why it mattered. As one professor told me, "God doesn't have any grandchildren." I had to decide if Christianity was merely my parents' faith, or truly my own. This isn't an idea that you will encounter very much in the South. Religion is as much a cultural and recreational part of life as it is spiritual.

I still consider myself a Christian, though the dispensational elements of my faith have been stripped away. I don't believe that Revelation means what most television evangelists would have us believe, and that includes their teachings about modern-day Israel and its role in the return of Christ. And I am not alone. I'm now a member of a rapidly-growing denomination where the majority of participants have—in the opinion of most Southern fundamentalists—very different views about what biblical references to Israel actually mean, particularly in the New Testament. Like myself, most new members of this denomination come from Baptist backgrounds.

In spite of the fact that the geographical significance of the literal Israel is somewhat downplayed in my denomination, I don't see any of the anti-Israel tendencies of which you speak. Quite the opposite, in fact; because while my eschatology does not require the modern state of Israel to play any role, I do believe very strongly in the cause of justice, and believe that Christians ignore it at their peril. It is for this reason that I am pro-Israel. Not because the Jews are God's chosen people, but because Israel is a shining city on a hill in a region of dark, deathly valleys. What Israel stands for is at odds with virtually every other corner of the Middle East—at odds with almost every nation, in fact, except another great nation called America.

I am not saying that Israel has not made missteps in dealing with its domestic and international problems. But like Bush in dealing with Iraq, I feel that Israel has always tried to make the best of a very bad situation. I have not the slightest doubt that if Israel could enjoy peace with the Palestinians tomorrow, they would grab hold of it in a heartbeat. But it is not the calling of Christians or Jews to create for tyrants and terrorists a world without consequences. To practice justice is to always choose the higher and usually more difficult path. It does not necessarily mean catering to those who are weaker or "oppressed." After all, when justice flourishes, the evil become weaker. They are, in some sense, "oppressed" by those who live justly. We should not wish it any other way, and I can't think of anyone in my denomination who would.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to say is that there is another side to the "Justice, Peace, and Concern" groups. I realize that the reality on the ground may be very different where you are. If anything, I'm trying to encourage you that, from my standpoint, even with fundamentalist Christians joining reformed denominations in droves here in the Southeast, I don't feel that the importance of Israel has been diminished (at least not in the two congregations where I participate). It's just that the reasons why Israel is important are different.

Matt said...

Thanks for the pointers Dymphna. Makes for interesting reading.

Have you heard of 'The Physics of Immortality', by Frank Tipler? If not you might want to check it out. It's a book about religion, by a heavyweight physicist, that uses relativity, quantum theory, and a little (okay, a lot of) speculation about the fate of the cosmos to derive what amounts to a theory of god. Fascinating book.

Dymphna said...

Matt--

Thanks for the book tip. Everyone, I *love* book tips. I have the god gene, so the idea of some kind of immortality is inherently congenial to me. This is fortunate, since one of my children is dead and the ultimate impact -- aside from an ineradicable grief -- is the feeling (can't be reduced to thought) that I will encounter her essence in some form in some eventuality.

Meanwhile, for those others of us with an interest in physics and spirituality, there is Robert Godwin's "One Cosmos Under God." The book is worth reading just for the anthropological discussions. Fascinating.

Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks for reminding me of the Lord Acton Institute. It's been a while since I looked on their website. I'll check out "One Cosmos" some more. It looks like he is doing something quite ambitious for a blog.

I've found it is very hard to break new ground on a blog. One’s insights get buried and new readers ask the same questions over and over again.

Heroic Dreamer said...

Some of my well-educated and well-traveled British friends - to my shock - have recently expressed the idea that without Israel there would be peace in the Middle East - I have read that such opinions are increasingly common in the UK.

I think these opinions come partially from a lack of knowledge regarding the history of Israel and Palestine. Many people seem to think that after WW II, the State of Israel was created by physically kicking the Palestines off the land and and that the Palestine refugee camps are full of people made homeless by this act. From what I understand, the land that the State of Israel occupies was in fact barren desert when it was made into the State of Israel and the Palestinians were small in number and nomadic. There was no Palestine state. The refugee camps were filled with refugees from neighboring countries (Egypt, Jordan, Syria).

With vision and hard work, the Jews transformed the desert,established schools, world class hospitals etc. etc. From what I can gather, the Palestinians are unable to sustain themselves without aid, and glorify death.

Because of Ahmadinejad's explicit threats to Israel and because of growing anti-semiticism, I have become worried about the future of this country. I am a Christian and I recently donated to ZOA (Zionist of America). Someone must make the case for Israel. I am glad to see you blogging on it.

Oddly, I have a New York liberal Jewish friend (she's a Democrat, I'm a Republican - so already there is a little tension) and I told her I contributed to ZOA because someone has to make the case for Israel and she looked at me very strangely in sort of a withdrawn, not nice way. I have no idea what button I pushed, but I feel that Israel is distinctly threatened and must be defended.

walt said...

All,

The current collapse of the mainline Protestant denominations began way back in the 1920s, when they decided to adopt the higher critical method from Europe. Basically, they stopped believing in the inerrancy of Scripture. In the Presbyterian church, this lead to the defrocking of J. Gresham Machen, a minister who wrote "Christianity and Liberalism" in defense of inerrancy. His defrocking lead to the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936. It's been many years since then, but we're now suffering from the path these mainline apostates took almost a century ago. I suggest that if you're in one of these denominations, get out!

whit said...

Walt, you beat me to the punch!

I was going to say that these denominations no longer believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. I hear the Epicopalians say, "We're led by the Holy Spirit."

As the Church Lady said, "How convenient!"

walt said...

whit,

It's ironic that these churches claim to be lead by the Holy Spirit, as the Holy Spirit divinely inspired the Apostles to write the Scriptures. Some exegetes believe that at immediately before the Day of Judgment, there will be a massive conversion of ethnic Israel (the Jews) (Romans 11). The antisemitism that these apostates pursue is in essence spitting in the face of God, who still has redemptive plans for them. Dietrich Bonhoffer will help judge this generation.

David said...

"Is their judgment at all connected to their similar judgments about America and her presence in the Middle East?" Of course. The "progressive" dislike of Israel stems largely from that country's similarities with the United States.

If a bratty teenager hates his parents, he will also probably hate his parents' friends.

Matt said...

Heroic Dreamer:

That's not entirely accurate. The Palestinians had quite a few agricultural settlements where they scratched a living out of the dirt. The Zionists had been trickling in for decades before WWII, buying up small pieces of the worst land, applying modern agricultural practices and hard work, and generally prospering. Shortly after WWII, the trickle became a flood, and the Jews had enough land and numbers to declare a state.

There never was a Palestinian 'nation': before Israel, Palestine was a British protectorate; before that, part of the Ottoman Empire. When the Zionists came, it was into British-controlled territory.

Finally, while the refugee camps are largely composed of the descendants of Palestinians, those Palestinians weren't forcibly evicted from their land by the Jews. They ran just before the first Arab-Israeli war, at the behest of the Arab armies, who warned them that they were going to push the Zionists apes and pigs into the sea and that in the course of their glorious victory they couldn't gurantee the good behaviour of their troops. It didn't hurt that rumors about Jews drinking babies' blood, etc, had been circulated for years before (as a psychological defense mechanism against the fact that the Jews had taken the worst land and prospered in a way the Palestinians could only dream.) Not everyone bought this line, of course, which is why today Israel contains a large number of ethnic Palestinians.

The funny thing is, in the aftermath of the first war, the Israelis offered to let the refugees back in, give them back their old land (at that time still sitting empty) and make them full citizens of Israel. But the Palestinians were so convinced by all the rumors that they thought it must be some sort of evil ploy on the part of those tricky Jews to lure them into a trap, so they stayed put.

Of course you won't get this version of history from the *cough* progressive crowd. Doesn't exactly show their favorite victims in a favorable light.