The Unending Christian Dispute Over Islam

Over the past few days, I’ve had several sustained exchanges with friends and acquaintances about Islam. The most ardent and influential of these correspondents insisted that my effort to distinguish between Islam and Islamism is a waste of time. He made the following points:

1) Islam itself is the problem. Its objective is not to disseminate a religious vision, but to enforce a body of law upon the rest of the world.

2) Its scriptures are replete not with descriptions of historical violence, but with “how to” varieties of “instructional violence”.

3) Its exhortation to follow Mohammed’s example (even before Koranic teaching, so my friend argues), drives such behaviors as the merciless execution of enemies and the marrying of child-brides.

4) ISIS, Al Qaeda, et al. are merely following Islam to the letter; civil, peaceful, amiable Muslims (of which my friend concedes there are many) are in fact far less true to their faith than the terrorist is.

5) Islam continues to spread unrest of the most sanguinary sort around the world, and has done so without respite throughout its history: e.g., Boko Haram’s predations in Nigeria, which doesn’t “take their oil or support Israel or any of that crap.”

I can’t maintain that I have ever found reading the Koran particularly uplifting—or, I should say, that the uplifting parts seem to me sufficient motive to brush away the disturbing parts. And I will quickly add that parts of the Old Testament have always deeply troubled me, from Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son to the programs of genocide in the books of Samuel. But I rarely hear those sections of the Bible recommended in Christian culture as paradigms for how we should conduct ourselves in daily life or how our nation should construct a foreign policy. Another friend made the oft-repeated point to me that this resistance to ignoring certain bellicose sections of the Koran—or this acquiescence to the decisions of leaders not to ignore them—is a major stumbling block to those of us who would reach across the barriers of traditional practice.

I mentioned Zuhdi Jasser to my most vocal contact. He revealed that he had actually worked with Jasser and found him completely sincere… but that the good doctor’s humane secularism was doomed to failure in the broader Islamic world.

Honesty compels me to say that I can’t disagree with most of the points made in these exchanges. I suppose one of my reservations would qualify as pragmatic. It’s this: I don’t know where moderate Muslims like Jasser and Qanta Ahmed are to turn if we say, “You’re lovely people… but your diabolical faith must either devour you or transform you. Your one chance is to cross entirely over to our side.” Isn’t that an ideal strategy for pushing all of the moderates over to the other side?

I have one more objection, which is not at all pragmatic but has a much stronger grip upon me. As a Christian, I am fully persuaded that God is not morally inscrutable to us, but rather that He speaks very comprehensibly of basic right and wrong to every ear that listens. Nevertheless, I cannot tell a Muslim, “Your god is too distant, too arbitrary and morally unmoored from humanity”—not when it is we who practice wholesale abortion and insist that mainstream culture admit one deviant sexual practice after another. I am ashamed of Christendom, on the whole. Perhaps so many Muslims are convinced that Christianity is not the answer because they see how self-styled Christian populations behave on TV, at the movies, through the medium of pop music, and even in legislative decisions.

Marrying a child-bride is pretty awful. Slipping off on weekend junkets from Frisco or Seattle to Thailand so you can wallow through fields of child-prostitutes… well, I think I’m okay with beheading in those instances.

Hands Off YOUR WHAT?

We’ve bought a nice little piece of land in the Appalachian foothills where I plan to grow almonds and apples, just to name the two that begin my list alphabetically. I have cans and canisters of seeds saved from years and years ago which I intend to plant. We’ll see what actually comes up. Thanks to genetic modification, very few of the fruits and vegetables I would have bought at the grocery store over the past six or eight years will ever produce anything from their seeds. That’s a frightening thought, and one of the reasons I want my own land with my own food growing on it. Some day, Big Brother is going to be deciding who gets viable seeds and who doesn’t, because nothing in our commercially purchased food will reproduce. I’m sure the basis of selection will be “first come, first served”… just as I’m sure that the single year my tax-exempt charity was hounded by the IRS had nothing to do with Lois Lerner’s reign.

At the entrance to my property sit two rusty old gates. They won’t keep out any hunters who really want in, but they might be a mild deterrent to teenagers looking for some place to drive into the woods and smoke weed or run anatomy experiments. The previous owners don’t seem to care about the gates sufficiently to take them down, and we’re glad enough to have them since we are not yet in situ. It might be said that the gates are now ours: the property is ours, and the gates were a free gift. Kind of.

But what happens if, after we’re moved in and well settled, the previous owners show up and want their gates back? They say, “You know, leaving them didn’t seem like a problem before… but now we’re running really short of cash. We need another pair of gates on our farm but can’t afford to buy them—so, naturally, we thought of these two. Sorry that you got used to them, or that we let you get used to them… but they weren’t ever part of the original sale. You realize that, don’t you? You didn’t pay a penny for them. They were a freebee, given on the assumption that we had unlimited money in the bank. Turns out that we don’t, so… now we need them back.”

At this point, I rear back and scream at the top of my lungs, “Hands off my gates! Do you want me to die—do you want robbers to break in and kill us? Everyone has a right to protection in this world. Hands off my gates!

I would look pretty stupid, wouldn’t I?

“Planet-Saving” Scams: The Stupidity and the Outrage

In case I haven’t written enough about this before… let me urge anyone who reads these scribbles to view words and phrases like “environmentally friendly”, “sustainable”, and “renewable” with extreme skepticism when they appear in the context of energy. The California legislature, in its interminable and terminal stupidity, has apparently decided to require that all new houses be equipped with solar panels and that all farms devote 25 percent of their acreage to windmills. One idiot legislator was chirping about all the new jobs that will be created by the heavy-handed mandate; and when questioned about how the consumer will pay the roofing crews who profit from the artificial bonanza, he blithely responded that the federal government would pick up the tab in the form of tax credits and rebates. That means YOU, my dear, and I: WE shall pay for California’s decision to “act responsibly” and “save the planet”. I thought Californians wanted to secede… so what’s holding them up?

Umm, and about “saving the planet”… just a few words. The rare-earth elements with which solar panels are coated—delightful stuff like cadmium and mercury—are so toxic that they can’t even be mined legally in this country. In the Third World and China (i.e., where people will shorten their lives just to eat for what time they have, or where their government doesn’t give a damn if they live or not), the locations where such mining is done are known as “cancer villages”. The life expectancy falls well short of thirty. So the next time you’re congratulating yourself for being environmentally responsible and saving the planet, say a little prayer for the children whom your virtue sent to an early grave… would you, please? And by the way, the panels need replacing every twenty-five or thirty years. Their energy output is not indefinitely sustainable.

As for windmills, every time I drive west or up into the heartland, I’m infuriated. There are quite literally thousands and thousands of the things. The landscape west of Abilene was never lyrically beautiful, but it once had a kind of sublimity that I found uplifting. Now vast tracts of land from West Texas to… yes, California… look like some kind of Siberian gulag for misbehaving fans—or perhaps like an infinite gauntlet of paddles awaiting some class of sinners in Dante’s lower Inferno. I’ve never seen all of the blades turning at once, and few of them ever turn very fast. Imagine the rate at which a turbine would be spinning at the base of a mediocre waterfall, and then compare that mental picture to the pathetic gyrations of these regimented titans. It is simply inconceivable that the horde of creaky monstrosities will pay for itself in less than a century. Each blade exceeds the length of a flatbed truck and must be hauled expensively (using God knows how much gas, by the way) from whatever industrial hub produced it (using God knows how much oil or coal, by the way). And there they sit, thousands upon thousands of them, all but motionless and about as scenic as the smokestacks of nineteenth-century Manchester. So far, though many are perched in prime tornado territory, we haven’t seen the consequences of their huge blades being torn asunder near a population center. And in the very near future—far sooner than a century—when we have discovered some infinitely cheaper energy source, we will face the further risk and expense of having to take them down.

Meanwhile, the industrial donors to these idiot politicians who sell their “clean energy” programs to you, the idiot public, keep raking in the taxpayer’s cash. We are creating jobs, you know! And meanwhile, as well, those of the emoji generation who need to slap a little icon or bumper-sticker on their conscience to show that they care about the planet as they check their messages and scroll through YouTube have the drive-through fix they crave. At what a cost! But what do they care? Just as long as everyone knows they “care”.

Now Big Brother Is Coming After Our Language

I’ve been chipping away on about the fifth or sixth revision—and much the most thorough one I’ve ever done—of a textbook I wrote years ago for a unique class. The intent is to teach Latin and Ancient Greek concurrently, emphasizing their many points of overlap, while at the same time drawing parallels with several modern romance languages. I guess you could say it’s a crash course in several mutually supportive languages for a generation that doesn’t have time to waste. I was hoping that a publisher somewhere might help me market the book to home-schoolers… but the publishing industry has degenerated to the point that you, as an author, are expected to have an audience and/or marketing strategy in you hip pocket, and not just a manuscript. Your publisher’s job is confined to pushing a few buttons and raking in the money. And since home-schoolers are a rather scattered group, by definition—and since my name isn’t Kim Kardashian or James Comey—no publisher will touch my unique little volume. Well, I’ll sell it myself through my website someday soon.

But anyway… the thought has occurred to me several times that I’m probably risking a lawsuit now when I teach this kind of subject matter. You see, the ancient languages in question have three genders; and gender must frequently be expressed in such parts of speech as adjectives—we’re not just talking about the “he/she” pronoun pair. (Some languages, like Russian and Arabic, even indicate gender in certain tenses of their verbs.) On the basis of what I hear to be happening in Canada, the teaching profession could become very dangerous very quickly. That’s one reason that I’m about to walk away from it. I only hope I haven’t waited too long.

What do you do on the day when some frosted nut-bar protests, “I’m uncomfortable with the word for ‘anger’ being feminine,” or, “It’s really sexist to make the word for ‘sun’ masculine but the word for ‘moon’ feminine.” Do you tell the whine-bag to use any gender he/she/it/they wants for any word, and abrogate your duty to correct improper usage? In Canada, O Canada, apparently, you can be fined for using gender-specific pronouns that offend a “trans” person (whatever the hell that means), and you can also have your child taken away if you refuse to support the public education system’s push to mainstream transgenderism (whatever the hell that means).

This sort of thing is no longer harmless idiocy. In fact, it’s time for young people to see it in its true colors. The edu-political complex has been working for decades now to dismantle all social structures that bind us together without the help of a centralized bureaucracy. It has denigrated mainstream religious faith while laboring hard and long to wedge in faiths with implicit or potential points of cultural clash; it has prosecuted the same kind of subversion in terms of the broader cultural usage, as when it undermines the lingua franca and promotes a sense of ethnic division; and it has waged war upon the nuclear family from every possible direction, but especially through the ongoing sexual revolution. Many younger people now perceive no stability or security in anything around them—not their religion, not the language they intend to use at the grocery store, not the ground rules of a simple dinner-and-a-movie date. Only the new, nannified Uncle Sam seems as solid as a marble edifice. It is that impersonal god of the state who truly loves them and will look out for them, and certainly not their family or their neighbors. Normal human ties are only treacherous snares: that faceless, aloof, omnipotent System promising lifelong fairness to and concern for all is the one god worth praying to and the one shoulder worth crying on.

Now, our gender-touchy whiner who insists on saying buenas dias and buenos noches has no idea that he/she/it/they is a pawn in a power play; but when we become too paralyzed even to address to each other without first consulting Big Brother’s manual of Correct Speak, then the forces of evil will have won the game for our future simply by moving pawns around—lots and lots of pawns.

The Most Dangerous Nation on Earth

I’m sorry that I use this space for so much griping, but… maybe that’s how I retain what little sanity I have.

Throughout my life, I have been what you might call a Sinophobe. Communist China scares me stiff. Even in early adolescence, I knew that the PRC was feeding arms to the Vietcong, and I had a feeling that I would end up face down in a rice paddy like so many of those just a little older than I… all because Red China couldn’t desist from fomenting unrest and bloodshed all around the world. The Chinese had ginned up the Korean conflict just a bit before my time; and the Korean War, as you all know, has never officially ended, and indeed could go nuclear almost any day now. No one can convince me that the PRC’s ruling elite couldn’t pull the rug out from under that sadistic, megalomaniac butterball, Kim Jong Un, any time they wanted to. Instead, they have actually decided to increase trade and aid to this lunatic as the rest of the world tries to isolate him—this while, at the same time, they assure our diplomats that they’ve played every card in their hand.

Meanwhile, China continues to bully Taiwan. (My own guess is that the PRC oligarchs are stoking Kim’s dreams of nuclear holocaust in hopes of backing us away from our support of the Taiwanese, at which point they will simply invade and take over. It’s how they think.) Japan, Vietnam, and even India are also being menaced by Chinese saber-rattling. The PRC has grossly mismanaged its vast economy, through a combination of state-mandated projects that create temporary jobs but appeal to no market and rampant corruption in top-heavy local bureaucracies. The response of the oligarchs—again fully typical—is not to learn from mistakes and clean up their act, but to execute a few of the more public grafters, brush other errors under the rug, and seek to prop up the economic numbers by raping vulnerable spots around the globe of their very limited resources.

Africa has been especially hard-hit, because her own struggling economies cannot resist the kind of short-term wealth that China dangles before them. A Chinese conglomerate will move in and construct a soccer stadium or lavish government buildings (using only Chinese workmen) in return for local mineral rights, then leave the country with rare rainforests razed from the face of the earth and none of the locals knowing how to operate or maintain all the great new “free” stuff… which falls apart within ten years.

People who speak out… vanish. Editors and publishers take mysterious, unannounced “vacations” from Hong Kong and may or may not be heard from again. Internationally visible advocates of freedom are invited for a “cup of tea” at the local police station… and may return a week or a month later, with guards thenceforward posted around their home to watch their every move. Others simply rot away in prison. Liu Xiao Bo, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is going to die unnecessarily of cancer because his captors won’t allow him to have treatment in the West; and though one would suppose that Liu would have global visibility, the rest of the world is beginning to prefer blindness. Maybe we’re supposed to reason that everyone dies of cancer in China, anyway, free or jailed. The air, water, and food are so polluted that sometimes even the oligarchs can’t be assured of a non-toxic environment.

Yes, China’s government scares the crap out of me. It always has. Churchill and FDR winked at Stalin’s massacres in their zeal to depose Hitler and armed China’s communist resistance to the Japanese as if, war ended, we would have sweetness and light in perpetuity. We have lived since under the shadow of a mushroom cloud; and I’ll even say—take a deep breadth—that dropping the bombs and demanding Japan’s unconditional surrender was a big, big blunder, insofar as it left the door wide open for Mao. Look at the numbers. Mao murdered, directly and indirectly, more innocent human beings than Hitler and Stalin combined.

So why is it—remind me again, please—that Russia is our “primary geopolitical enemy,” as I just heard one National Review editor opine? Shouldn’t we, rather, be luring Russia to our side as China lengthens Kim’s leash and sends her cruisers arrogantly through neutral waters throughout Southeast Asia? Shouldn’t we even be pondering how to make Iran more of a thorn in the PRC’s side?

But no, I have a better idea: let’s defeat some of China’s enemies for her, emasculate others, and turn still others into her allies! Because we just can’t have those stinking Ruskies giving presidential candidates confidential dirt about each other. That red line… you gotta draw it somewhere, you know.

Real Faith and Fake Faith

I lately ran across an Arthur C. Clarke short story titled “The Star”. I suppose if you can accept space travel to the far reaches of the universe as plausible, you can also accept that a Jesuit priest would participate in the mission—though the latter seems the more challenging proposition. Clarke had to put the narration in the priest’s mouth, no doubt, in order to make his indictment of religion flow from someone who once numbered among the most faithful. Our narrator has just discovered the pitiful remnants of a once thriving culture, parallel to Earth’s highest human civilizations in its art, social order, and sophistication. Its leaders had apparently deposited the essential works and creations of a long history—or some commemorative record of them—on a Pluto-like planet shortly before their solar system’s central star vaporized all traces of life. Now the Jesuit, no longer a believer, cannot imagine how any god worthy of the name would allow an entire higher life form to vanish into nothingness, and to no end whatever.

I’ve heard objections to faith like this all my life. What disturbs me most is that a person might harbor them who really is a priest or minister—for I can’t in good conscience accuse Clarke of manufacturing this character just to deliver his atheistic message more powerfully. There are truly “believers” of this caliber who refuse to accept that God would ever allow the U.S. to be irradiated by a hail of nuclear missiles—or even (let’s keep it all natural) that God would ever allow the Yellowstone caldera to revive and become a super-volcano, its next eruption exterminating much of central North America’s population. The same people are deeply challenged when someone they love happens to die of natural causes, leaving them no one to blame but God himself… whom, in “punishment”, they may declare not to exist.

We might as well have no faith at all if we believe that having it is somehow an assurance against material tragedy or disaster. An entire planet’s being wiped out in a supernova is really no different from an individual’s being suddenly snuffed out in his sleep by a stroke. Even though his life’s “great work”—a novel written, a bridge built, a new water-filtration system invented—is not wiped out along with him in the latter case, everything we do will eventually vanish from these present dimensions. The purpose is all in the trying: somehow or other, in my opinion, that’s the measure of our souls. We’re all on a desert island, if you will, where we will never be found. We can turn wild and rape and kill… or we can build houses and carve instruments and domesticate birds, though no trace of our activity will remain within a century.

Not on the island, at any rate: but if you have faith, then you view the island merely as a small portal to an infinitely vaster reality. It is through that entry, and not on this side of it, that things will make ultimate sense. And if you do not have faith… then see if you can swing the heaviest club and get everyone to kneel to you. Your bones will be bleached just as white as theirs in a few short years.

The really pitiful ones, I repeat, are those who think they have faith, yet make it completely dependent upon a ship’s arriving at the island tomorrow… or the next day.

Why Does Language Only Degenerate?

Among other things I’m doing to wear myself out and drive myself crazy during summer “vacation” is the complete overhaul of an introductory textbook that presents Latin and classical Greek together. Every time I muck about in an ancient language, I’m struck by how much of the system has already been lost when things start being recorded. It’s very odd. We all picture to ourselves, in our arrogantly progressive mindset, a bunch of cavemen slowly stringing words together and discovering the fine points of grammar. “Me see mammoth,” works its way at a glacial pace to, “I see mammoth”… and then to, “I saw a mammoth,” and so on.

But that’s not what the written record shows. Rather, by the time things are committed to stone or clay or parchment, case endings are already in full collapse. Latin must have had a distinct vocative (for calling out a person’s name) and a distinct locative (for identifying where something happens) among its other noun endings; for we see relics of both cases, and Sanskrit has in fact preserved both in much better repair. A lot of other endings, however, probably disappeared entirely. Accompaniment and manner are both expressed in the ablative (“with great praise” and “with a friend”), though they likely had separate spellings at some point in the distant past. Prepositions were born, in fact, as case endings were misremembered to the point that many started to sound alike. Most Latin endings, indeed, are almost identical with dative endings, and in Greek the ablative and dative had fused seamlessly. These languages were in full meltdown already as the first millennium before Christ began.

I’m just throwing this out there: something was going on about four or five thousand years ago whose magnitude we haven’t begun to suspect–something on the order of a cultural awakening, a global burst of inspiration and genius. The wild-eyed types who chatter away on Ancient Aliens will point to the Pyramids, Stonehenge, complex structures newly unearthed in southeastern Turkey, Mayan and Incan construction… and the question is always, “Could this intricate creation be the work of extraterrestrial visitors? Ancient alien theorists say ‘yes’!”

Well, in a way, that’s just playing the same progressive game: i.e., primitive humans were so stupid that they couldn’t have devised such wonders on their own. I’m not dismissing the ET explanation out of hand, because these matters are so mysterious that any sufficient answer has to be mind-blowing. But did a benign ET also give us the elaborate linguistic structures which proceeded to decay in our inept and lazy custody over the next few millennia? Or were we ourselves brilliant at one time, perhaps when we lived for the better part of two centuries like biblical patriarchs… and then we began to fall apart?

At the very least, there’s plenty enough mystery in human history to teach us more respect for pre-history than we commonly display–and to alert us, as well, that we’re very capable of great leaps backward as well as forward.