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May 12, 2006

Double Vision, Professor?

PROEM:
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Now, I'm not saying that this square can't be circled, but explanation would seem in order from Professor Reynolds. Statement 1:

OF WINDS AND WHIRLWINDS: Now that the Muhammad-cartoon precedent has been set, we've got Christians calling for censorship of stuff that offends them. No surprise, there.

UPDATE: Chuck Pelto emails: "they won't be as effective as their Islamic counterparts ....until they start sawing off people's heads with dull knives." That'll come, if people keep caving to the Islamists. Fanatics learn by example.

Statement 2:

EUGENE VOLOKH LOOKS AT A TIME "When the idea of self-preservation was as jealously guarded from the young as the facts of sex had been in earlier ages."

I think the view that it's connected with a (somewhat degenerate) notion of holiness is right, too. Call it Christianity's poison pill.

I've expressed offense at the insistence that Christians will surely take the violent path of Islamic radicals once they come to comprehend the efficacy of the latter's methods. Does that mean I've taken a mild dosage of the poison? Or is reticence to forceful self-preservation only a "poison pill" when it means putting the West — as opposed to Christianity — at risk?

Perhaps conservative Christians ought to be clearer with their secular allies that their rhetorical and physical defense of the West focuses on preserving what is Christian about it.

ADDENDUM:
The professor responds:

IT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN atrocity and self-defense, between resolution and fanaticism. That it's being missed even by thoughtful observers goes some distance toward proving my point.

I'm not so sure that Glenn has drawn the lines as starkly as he believes. Statement 1 relates to Nigerian Roman Catholic Cardinal Arinze's suggestion that:

Those who blaspheme Christ and get away with it are exploiting the Christian readiness to forgive and to love even those who insult us. There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking. They will make it painfully clear to you

As I've said, I'd want more context before trusting Reuters' interpretation of the Cardinal's intended prescription, but even so, would censorship be atrocity? What Glenn elides when he places such "legal means" on the same path as "sawing off people's heads with dull knives," it seems to me, is exactly the "poison pill" that he laments in statement 2: namely, "the desire for holiness, the belief in sacrifice, and a willingness to serve as the butchered victim acceptable to God."

In that passage, Rebecca West is referring to England's failure to foster courage for self-preservation even though "every day Germany and Italy were formulating in more definite and vehement terms that they meant to vanquish and annihilate" the nation. Arguably, Muslim activists and secularists are — each in their own way — formulating in more definite and vehement terms social and legal principles meant to vanquish Christianity from the Western public square (with the former doing so by more generally elbowing out Western culture).

Where resolution ends and fanaticism begins is certainly a moral question with which we all must grapple, and for Christians it is, if anything, made more difficult by the belief that self-preservation is not all. At what point is one being fanatical about self-preservation or, conversely, about self-sacrifice? Surely, the line will vary according to context, but it isn't obvious to me that Glenn is considering the material context (war versus censorship) rather than the context of the thing being preserved (the West versus Christianity).

Posted by Justin Katz at May 12, 2006 9:59 PM
Religion
Comments

What's with this "perhaps"? Are you saying these folks ought to be clearer? Or not? Please be clearer.

Posted by: S at May 12, 2006 10:32 PM

Instalanche!

Perhaps the Professor should be reminded that the burden is on the writer to make himself understood. :-)

Posted by: ELC at May 12, 2006 10:36 PM

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood."
- Karl Popper

Posted by: Don McArthur at May 12, 2006 11:25 PM

I see that poison pill a lot. I'm in a community of Christian bloggers (specifically Methodist) who are overwhelmingly "pacifists" of the anti-American variety. At least in my neck of the woods, flag-waving conservative Christians are a rarity.

The professor is right.

Posted by: John at May 12, 2006 11:25 PM

Not really, it only takes one Jim Jones or "Rev." Phelps to create an atrocity. That the rest of the Christian community would be horrified is immaterial next to the concept that it would have happened, and is attributable to the statement of ideas to which that crazy had previously expressed intolerance.

Posted by: John at May 12, 2006 11:42 PM

Watch and get back to us.

Some Christians, not many, will demand censorship to respect Christianity. Almost no Christians will commit violence over it. Those that do, if they do, will be publicly repudiated by a large majority of Christians.

The idea, held by many who oppose the Iraq War, that conservative Christians are basically equivalent to Islamic fundamentalists is bankrupt.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 11:49 PM

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." What's that supposed to mean? ;-)

Posted by: ELC at May 12, 2006 11:59 PM

what i would like to know is why people seem to think that being a Christian involves any sort of pacifism. conversely, i would like to know why people like Chuck Pelto seem to think that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, involve slaughter. it seems that we get the Chuck Peltos of the world saying that the Christ Nazis are one step away from genocide, since they believe in something that cannot be proven, and we have the whiny pacifists trying to survive in a world filled (though not dominated) with violent evil. the pacifists freeload on those of us willing to fight, and the Chuck Peltos (for lack of a better thing to call them) call us out for not laying down and dying for our religion.

it is great that so many people in the world do not need to scratch out a meager existance anymore. they now have enough distance on the reality of nature that they can turn it into some vast benign spirit. they can admire the pretty fur coat that nature wears since they are too far away to see that she is still red in tooth and claw. maybe, however, those people so carefully insulated from the facts of life should remember that it isn't that far back. keeping the rest of us out of range of those teeth and claws is a full time job for some in our society.

Posted by: Sean at May 13, 2006 12:26 AM

This poison pill is already in play in the culture war, as Christians stand by while the ACLU and like minded lawyers remove any hint of Christianity from our public square and our history.

Posted by: Joel Mackey at May 13, 2006 12:31 AM

The difference between atrocity and self defense, the difference between resolution and fanaticism are usually determined by the victor's history writers.

Except in the west, where marxist professors have determined that it is best to write out anti-west atrocity and fanaticism and replace it with our history. For example the settling of a new land by people seeking the freedom to self determination and religious thought is instead the genocide of indigenous people.

This is the poisonous pill all Americans are swallowing to some degree or another.

Posted by: Joel Mackey at May 13, 2006 12:45 AM

For better or for worse, Christianity has been tamed. There will be no Crusade. I admire greatly - and disagree with - those who stand against abortion believing it is murder. The number of terrorists spawned by that movement is minimal.

The biggest risk isn't that Christians will "awaken" and go on Crusades. The biggest risk is that secular Europe will wake up and smell the napalm. The last two world wars were not fought in Europe by accident.

In a worst-case scenario, the Middle East and Islam dies a bloody violent death, Europe is devasted, and we are not able to pick up the pieces, as we did the last two times.

Christians - any Americans - becoming violently dangerous as a group is wildly unlikely.

(As a counter-argument I offer a bumper sticker I saw today: The reason that fur not leather is bad is that it is safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that someone will catch on and start a movement.)

Posted by: mrsizer at May 13, 2006 12:54 AM

For better or for worse, Christianity has been tamed. There will be no Crusade. I admire greatly - and disagree with - those who stand against abortion believing it is murder. The number of terrorists spawned by that movement is minimal.

The biggest risk isn't that Christians will "awaken" and go on Crusades. The biggest risk is that secular Europe will wake up and smell the napalm. The last two world wars were not fought in Europe by accident.

In a worst-case scenario, the Middle East and Islam dies a bloody violent death, Europe is devasted, and we are not able to pick up the pieces, as we did the last two times.

Christians - any Americans - becoming violently dangerous as a group is wildly unlikely.

(As a counter-argument I offer a bumper sticker I saw today: The reason that fur not leather is bad is that it is safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that someone will catch on and start a movement.)

Posted by: mrsizer at May 13, 2006 12:54 AM

Preview seems to post. Sorry.

Posted by: mrsizer at May 13, 2006 12:56 AM

Interesting, I gather Glenn thinks that christian pacifism is the poisen pill based on a misunderstood concept of holines? Would agree, Christianity is pacifistic by nature, but only to a point. I don't think we will see christian terrorists anytime soon. (christian in the true sense of the term) however some of the pacifistic denominations do seem blinded by there ownwarped sense of violence and end up trying to justify regimes and groups that are just plain evil.

Posted by: Ron at May 13, 2006 1:48 AM

sean:

chuck pelto has no belief that christianity = pacifism, but he has seen that equation happen in many mainline protestant denominations. Chuck is an evangelical (with some rather annoying verbal/written tics that make it obvious) and understands the various streams of christianity well.

insta and chuck are right in that feeding extremist headchoppers gets you more decapitations. WE ARE TRAINING the religious to be immoderate. This is a grave disaster. Some day someone will wakeup and realise that constitutions will surrender to anyone who is ruthlesss enough.

Posted by: hey at May 13, 2006 1:52 AM

It's funny how liberalism clings to pacifism as an article of faith (or is it just a move to disarm the opposition). When Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world, and that if it were, "then would my servants fight," he wasn't endorsing surrendering to evil without a fight. He meant, I think, that his kingdom cannot be established through force and fighting. It would indeed be a poison pill if he meant that his followers were not to defend themselves and their rights, with force if necessary.

I saw a woman representing Phelps' congregation on Hannity & Colmes this evening. She was so offensive, I kept wanting him to ask her who had appointed her to judge humanity. It wouldn't have done any good. of course. She'd just fall back on threatening him with hell for questioning her. She goes around carrying signs outside funerals for servicemen condemning them to hell, apparently for being soldiers. I recommend putting this crowd on the front lines when Armageddon comes. If she's going to heaven, I'll take purgatory, thanks.

Posted by: AST at May 13, 2006 2:28 AM

Speaking in Rome, the official, Archbishop Angelo Amato, a close aide to Pope Benedict XVI, called [The Da Vinci Code] "full of calumnies, offenses and historical and theological errors regarding Jesus, the Gospels and the church," Reuters reported. "If such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust, they would have justly provoked a world uprising," he said. "Instead, if they are directed against the church and Christians, they remain unpunished."

(Many posts on this subject over at http://crankyinsomniac.blogspot.com)

Posted by: The Cranky Insomniac at May 13, 2006 3:57 AM

Sometimes I think The Professor is fearful he's going to lose his mojo and is projecting his fears upon the Christers because they're easy targets.

Posted by: syn at May 13, 2006 7:02 AM

Except in the west, where marxist professors have determined that it is best to write out anti-west atrocity and fanaticism and replace it with our history. For example the settling of a new land by people seeking the freedom to self determination and religious thought is instead the genocide of indigenous people.

except that there *was* a genocide of indigenous people. there also happened to be a settling of a new land by people seeking the freedom of self determination and religion. both things happened.

not everything we've done has been good, just like not everything we've done has been bad. just like not every Islamist is a Jihadist and not every Christian is a fundamentalist. just like not every Republican's a religious fanatic and not every Democrat's a leftist reactionary.

individuals take action. we need to stop forgetting that. sweeping generalizations are wrong no matter which way the broom is going.

Posted by: tyler at May 13, 2006 7:27 AM

I've been reading Reynolds long enough to percieve that his biggest fear is his own mortality. I suggest he reads Foxe's Book of Martyrs if he really wants some Christer poison pill degeneracy. I would remind him that there are more true Christians serving - and fighting - overseas than teaching law. As for self defense in relation to holiness, in this instance his freedom to comment is inverse to his fitness.

Posted by: rhodeymark at May 13, 2006 8:58 AM

Native Americans are not indigenous to the Americas, they were of the Mongol tribes which migrated down from the North and were actually greeted by Negro tribes which had migrated from up from the South. The discovery of skulls in Brazil indicate that the Negro tribes who were living in the Americas were exterminated by the Mongol tribes.

The earth has been around so long that tribal migration and/or invasion has made the idea of 'indigenous peoples' meaningless.

Posted by: syn at May 13, 2006 9:21 AM

I've been reading Reynolds long enough to percieve that his biggest fear is his own mortality. Nice catch.

Posted by: ELC at May 13, 2006 10:13 AM

ELC - this may help.
A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand. - Bertrand Russell

Posted by: David at May 13, 2006 12:42 PM

Except in the Kingdom of Tonga, there is no place in the world today where Christians hold civil power. All governments are secular in the west.

Islam is different.

When western governments used to be like Islamic govenments now (not so very long ago), the degree of intolerance and murderous violence was markedly higher than it is now.

There is no reason to suppose that if Christians regained civil power, they would not revert to type.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at May 13, 2006 2:25 PM

Most of you folks are going to HELL! Praise JESUS!

Posted by: Brother Squirrel Roberts at May 13, 2006 3:01 PM

"A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand. - Bertrand Russell"

Wrong! A clever man communicates even the complex simply, so it can be understood. That's why he/she/it is called clever. Any fool can communicate poorly.

Posted by: Major Mike at May 13, 2006 5:43 PM

Syn is exactly right, and Tyler is exactly my point, unable to draw distinct moral lines and therefore easy prey to moral equivalency/relativists.

There was no genocide commited by european settelers on Indian tribes. There were epidemics which always happen when two isolated biologies are put into close proximity and thier various bugs mix. There was also war, when either or neither party could come to agreement on land, but it was fought and the winner took his spoils.

Only now our vaunted academia, rife with anti-american strains of marxist thought feel it necessary to demonize the settling of America, ignoring any context which might place the settlers of America in a light which is not purely negative.

This same technique has been used against the Israeli's in thier conflict against thier various opponents, and is now being utilized in the current islamo-fascist jihad against the Democratic west.

Posted by: Joel Mackey at May 13, 2006 7:14 PM

Harry Eager at May 13, 2006 2:25PM claimed "When western (sic) governments used to be like Islamic govenments now (not so very long ago)..."

Really? When was that? I encounter Harry's sort of free-floating, void of specific examples moral equivalence nonsense too often -- usually from self-appointed anti-Christian, anti-religious holier-than-thou types. (Yes, that's a self-contradictory condition but atheism and their cowardly comrades agnosticism and secularism are no guarantees of mental health and consistency of principles. Don't take what I have to say about Harry as a blanket condemnation of the irreligous; just because 99.99% of the atheists my devout Christian friends meet are jerks doesn't mean we all are.)

When Harry smugly snarls about the Christian West and claims to fear they may "revert to type", he tells us more about himself than about Christians. Only because Christians had "civil power" in the past can Harry and atheists like myself comfortably enjoy living in liberal societies today, societies almost exclusively products of Christian-conceived Western values. (Duh.)

Harry owes Christians a lot of gratitude for his soft lifestyle and easy mouthing-off free of fear that his throat might have an encounter with a dull knife. But, as Eric Hoffer warned, "He who bites the hand that feeds him will lick the boot that kicks him." I don't expect the West to be betrayed by Christians but I have no trust that Christian-phobes like Harry will resist the temptation to fall to their knees and start boot-licking like frightened curs should a crisis come.


Posted by: michael i at May 13, 2006 9:02 PM

"There is no reason to suppose that if Christians regained civil power, they would not revert to type."

Harry -- There are many reasons to suppose otherwise. First of all, the Christian "type" for the first three centuries was to stoically accept persecution and martyrdom on horrific scales without retribution. This has never been true of Islam.

Second, Christian religious wars and persecution have been over for two or three hundred years and Christian leaders have apologized for past abuses many times. (Try Googling "Pope apologizes".) This has never been true of Islam either.

Even though Christians are the most numerous religous gruop on the planet, they are not imposing their views by violence as the Muslims are and it's not because they lack the power to do so.

Posted by: Jack at May 13, 2006 10:35 PM

People, take a breather. Does everyone here have to yell out "Oh praise the Lord!" not to be called a "frightened cur"?

Obviously, Christianity and Islam are not the same animal. There is nothing equivalent to Jesus' "turn the other cheek" in Islam as far as I can remember. If there is, I am obviously a damn poor reader.

There isn't even an exact equivalent to "render unto Caesar", and so that should settle that for anyone honest enough to be open to persuation.

But this does not disprove Harry Eaager's comments. During those times when Christianity was infused into every part of Europe's civil government, Europe was (overall) quite as intolenrant, and even as violent, as their Islamic counterparts.

Christianty has luckily changed for the better since then (Oh thank the Lord!) and I quite honestly could not imagine its returning to its past medievalism. But this doesn't mean that Harry Eaager is a loon, nor that his comments deserve such a response.

Posted by: Abluesilkworm at May 16, 2006 5:08 PM