The Crucible of the Assyrians: Iraqi Christians, ISIS, and the Middle East.
March 19, 2015, Warrenville, Illinois, 7:30 PM.
A Fellowship of St. James Evening Lecture featuring Juliana Tamimoorazy, Founder and president of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council. We will include an opportunity for a free will offering to support persecuted Christians in Iraq. Hosted by Holy Transfiguration Antiochian Orthodox Church.
The Crucible of the Assyrians: Iraqi Christians, ISIS, and the Middle East.
From the March / April 2015 issue of Touchstone. Select articles now available online, including this one from senior editor Russell D. Moore.
Man, Woman & the Mystery of Christ
An Evangelical Protestant Perspective
The following is an address given by Dr. Moore at the Vatican Colloquium on Marriage and the Family on November 18, 2014.
I am thankful to Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the opportunity to address you today.
Poet Wendell Berry responded to the technological utopianism of naturalistic scientism with an observation that I believe frames the entire discussion of what it means to affirm the complementarity of man and woman in marriage. His observation was that any civilization must decide whether it will see persons as machines or as persons. If we are creatures, he argued, then we have meaning and purpose and dignity, but with all of that we have limits. If we see ourselves as machines, then we will believe the Faustian myth of our own limitless power and our ability to reshape even what it means to be human.
This is, it seems to me, the question at the heart of the controversies every culture faces about the meaning of marriage and of sexuality. Are we created, as both the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus of Nazareth put it, “male and female” from the beginning, or are these categories arbitrary and self-willed? Do our bodies, and our sexes, and our generational connectedness represent something of who we are designed to be, and thus place on us both limits on our ability to recreate ourselves and responsibilities for those who will come after us?
(Some version of this is sung every Sunday of Lent in the Eastern Orthodox Church.)
To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride Unwedded.
As we come to the end of this year’s Black History Month, I reflected on the life of Rosa Parks. You will recall that on December 1, 1955, Ms. Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus to a white passenger. She was arrested for “civil disobedience” and charged with “disorderly conduct” for violating Alabama’s segregation laws. At trial the next day, she was found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs. She appealed the sentence and fine, and challenged the legality of racial segregation. Her act of defiance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and she remained a powerful symbol of resistance to racial segregation in the United States throughout her life. Although others in Montgomery had previously been arrested for refusing to yield their seats to white people, no one could begin to imagine the repercussions that a middle-aged, department store seamstress would create around the world.
Barronelle Stutzman is a 70-year-old grandmother and florist from Washington State. She is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She is also a devout Christian believer. Several years ago, two of her long-time customers, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed (hereinafter the “Lads”), asked for her to provide flowers for their “homosexual” wedding. However, she declined because it violated her strongly-held religious belief that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. The Lads then sued Ms. Stutzman, and further, the Attorney General of Washington, Robert Ferguson, Esq., a Democrat who was elected despite a lack of prosecutorial experience, filed another lawsuit against Ms. Stutzman for violating Washington’s consumer protection law. (How is it discrimination since the Lads were clients of Ms. Stutzman’s flower shop for nine years? But I digress.) At trial, on February 18, 2015, Benton County Superior Court Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom ruled that Ms. Stutzman had violated the Washington law by refusing to provide flowers for the Lads’ wedding. Further, media reports indicate that the judge ruled that “while religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment, actions based on those beliefs aren’t necessarily protected.” So this new rule of law is that it’s acceptable to believe in God, but don’t apply your beliefs to daily life. It is a particularly rich irony that Judge Ekstrom would make that determination given that the writers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights thought it just might be important to protect Americans from government interference with their thoughts and religious practice.
Those of us who are signers of the Manhattan Declaration have vowed civil disobedience if we come to conclude that our rights to civil liberties are violated. The Declaration states:
We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.
Emphasis added. As we conclude Black History Month, let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote in his Letters From A Birmingham Jail:
How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. . . . Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.
Ms. Stutzman is leading the way for us, just as Ms. Parks did in her generation. For me, we have arrived at the time in our nation’s history when it is now proper to resist evil encroachments on our freedom and civil liberties in accordance with Acts of the Apostles 5:29. Please pray for Ms. Stutzman and her attorneys. Thank you, Ms. Stutzman, for standing strong in the Lord Jesus Christ when all of the institutions of government seek to silence you.
Why the West may be growing Islamic..get used to it? at This Week by Michael Brendan Dougherty.
But could ISIS force some Muslims to rethink their faith? Here is one encounter at Ex-Muslim.com.
Porn gets “Branded” as very, very bad to consume, ever: Lifesite, posts Russell Brand’s jaw-dropping rant.
Speaking of porn, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation has released its Dirty Dozen List, which includes the Department of Justice.
On the lighter side: A very funny (anti-Canadian?) Gilbert & Sullivan-style I am the Very Model of Biblical Philologist by Josh Tyra.
Last week, President Obama convened an international White House Summit on Violent Extremism. Interestingly, he was applauded when he claimed, “Islam has been woven into the fabric of America since its founding.” Historians have noted that there were some Moslems living in the colonies and in the early United States. The hundreds of Moslems were imported as slaves from Islamic areas of Africa. In his remarks at the recent National Prayer breakfast, Mr. Obama equated 21st century Islamic terrorism with Christian aggression during the Crusades. David Frum observed that while Mr. Obama said that Christians “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” he made no parallel reference to “terrible deeds committed in the name of Islam.” Many Americans, both Christian and non-Christian, were surprised at Mr. Obama’s remarks. But the early history of the United States did involve decades of attacks by Moslem pirates from North Africa, which resulted in a number of wars. After several decades of paying ever-increasing tribute, President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay the high ransoms demanded by Moslem pirates who seized American merchant ships and enslaved the crews. The American Navy and Marines then fought the pirates “to the shores of Tripoli,” as the Marine hymn declares.
Moslems have been welcome to the United States since its founding. Political philosopher John Locke wrote in his Letter on Toleration of 1689 said that Moslems and all others who believed in God should be tolerated in England. Thomas Jefferson followed Locke, and demanded recognition of the religious rights of the “Mahamdan” in Virginia. During the history of the United States, our nation has welcomed legal immigrants of all faiths and from every nation. But, of course, Moslems were not among the Pilgrims and did not celebrate the first Thanksgiving Day. No Moslem signed the Declaration of Independence, or the United States Constitution, or served in any legislature that ratified the Bill of Rights. Some historical documents record that a handful of Moslem slaves fought for this country’s freedom from England in the Revolutionary War; those few fought alongside their owners. There is no evidence that Moslems fought during the Civil War to free the slaves. In fact, even today, among the world’s more than 20 million slaves, Moslems are still the largest traffickers in human slavery. During the Civil Rights movement, one hears of no Moslem who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King, or helped to advance the cause of civil rights in our nation. There were no Moslems who fought for the women’s right to vote. Today, it is a tenet of Islam that holds women in a position of subservience. During World War II, the Islamic world was allied with Hitler. The Moslem Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini met with Adolf Hitler in 1941, reviewed German troops, and accept support from the Nazis to kill Jews. (In 1945, Yugoslavia sought to indict the Grand Mufti as a war criminal for his role in recruiting 20,000 Moslem “volunteers” for the Nazi SS, who had participated in the murder of Jews in Croatia and Hungary. But he escaped from French detention in 1946, and continued his fight against Jews and Israel until he died in 1974.) And there was that pesky problem of September 11, 2001, where Moslems were actively involved in the terrorist attacks in the United States.
In the United States, we have no Moslem colleges or universities, or Moslem hospitals, or even a Moslem orchestra, or great Islamic libraries or museums. I have never seen an Islamic band marching in an Independence Day parade. I did not see the Red Crescent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or any Moslem charity helping out after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Mr. Obama is an unusual American president given that his paternal father and grandfather were Moslems from Africa, and that he studied for years in an Islamic school in Indonesia. So, it is easy to understand that he might have warmer feelings for Islam, and a myopic timidity to state the obvious regarding Islamic terrorism. But it is a particular irony that this most Islamophile president finds himself in office as a dangerously violent, worldwide movement seeks to expand its most austere form of Islam at the point of a gun, sword, and beheading knife, with future plans to use nuclear weapons. Radical Islam, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, hates Jews, Shia Moslems, the House of Saud, Western education, Israel, Russia, and the United States, and not necessarily in that order. But to say that Islam has been woven into the fabric of the United States since its founding is a lie. But as the great 20th century moral philosopher George Constanza from Seinfeld once opined, “Jerry, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”
Obama Administration refuses to help Nigerian Christians Unless They Convert to Secular Humanism
… Bishop Emmanuel Badejo of Oyo, Nigeria, is convinced they are under threat from what Pope Francis has called an “ideological colonization” that is seeking to destroy the family. It’s so bad, he says, that the United States has made clear it will not help Nigeria fight the Boko Haram terror group unless the country modify its laws regarding homosexuality, family planning and birth-control.
(If accurate, the implications are stunning. It suggests that the administration is ignoring the massacre of Christians less as a matter of apathy and ignorance than as a matter of ideological antipathy. Let us pray that that is not the case.)
“The message of these rulings is unmistakable: the government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner,…”
(The question is not whether Christians have the right to refrain from activities that betray their commitment to Christ, but whether Americans can any longer be permitted to blaspheme an ideology—Secular Humanism—which is rapidly establishing itself as the official religion of the United States. Since the Constitution expressly forbids the establishment of a state religion, I am surprised that Christian legal groups are not battling the government on that basis alone. Let’s pray for continued strength for all Christians who are now being similarly oppressed.)
UPDATE: Baronelle Stutzman has declined the state’s kind offer to reduce her fine.
“You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver,” Stutzman wrote in a letter to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “That is something I will not do.”
DRTV Above the Paygrade: Wesley J. Smith: Legal Suicide, Cultural Suicide
(Once the state decides the life of the most innocent is no longer sacred, then no one’s life is sacred, whether religious, agnostic or atheist. Perhaps the pro-life movement would enjoy more success in battling the juggernaut of Death if it enlarged the scope of its mission—if it started trying to convince the secular world in terms that hit it where it lives, so to speak, in terms of its own self-preservation.
One of the main reasons the anti-abortion message falls on so many deaf ears is that secularists fail to see the connection between the utilitarian devaluation of one innocent life and the subsequent utilitarian devaluation of all other lives, as manifested by such anti-human activities as rationing of healthcare and euthanizing of the vulnerable—they fail to understand the indissoluble link between the value of one human life and the value of their own.)
In our lifetimes, the remarkable rise of the Internet has been as transformative in our day as the Industrial Revolution was to its era. Economic activity on the Internet now totals over $4.2 trillion annually, and almost one-half of the world’s more than 7 billion people are connected to the Internet. It is a free, open, and thriving platform for civic and political engagement, economic growth, educational opportunity, and entertainment. It has made the United States the center of technological innovation. But now, the Obama administration wants to regulate (take over?) the Internet. (Is that really the most pressing problem going on in Washington today?) On November 10, 2014, Mr. Obama gave a speech in which he recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service. This was met with immediate approval from The New York Times, which concluded in an op-ed, “What Mr. Obama wants is an Internet where service providers handle all content sent and received by consumers equally.” (Almost like “If you like your Internet, you can keep your Internet.”) Following the dictate of Mr. Obama, FCC Chairman Thomas E. Wheeler has proposed federal control of the Internet via the Communications Act of 1934, that paragon of progressive legislation that placed the old AT&T telephone monopoly under government control. (Incidentally, 1934 happens to be just 81 years ago, and was even before the birth of former Vice President Albert Gore.) Essentially, Internet service would be reclassified from information to telecommunications. The Obama-Wheeler plan contains no shortage of regulations in its 332 pages, but the most problematic may be the new “Internet conduct” rule, which has been leaked. This vague rule that gives the FCC almost unfettered discretion to micromanage virtually every aspect of the Internet. Further, the Obama-Wheeler plan provides that no unbundling of internet services will be allowed. This ensures that there is no way for competitive broadband companies to start operations without investing massive amounts of money in fiber-optic connections. According to Chairman Wheeler, the plan would ensure “net neutrality.” (Of course, that Orwellian term “net neutrality” is unclear to most of us, though it does sound good.)
Then Chairman Wheeler, to make sure that the public, who might be skeptical about an ObamaNet Program, not learn about this plan, “embargoed” release of any specifics in the secret plan until after the FCC vote, presently scheduled for February 26, 2015. (So much for another one of Mr. Obama’s claims that his would be the most open and transparent administration in American history.) However, in a recent survey published by the Progressive Policy Institute, a stunning 79% of Americans favor public disclosure of the exact wording and details of the Obama-Wheeler plan before the FCC votes on it. (Quoting the ever-delightful Representative Nancy Pelosi, “we have to pass it to see what’s in it!”) Moreover, there is no formal comment period for this proposed scheme. One of the two Republican FCC commissioners, Ajit Pai, observed that that the Obama plan would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country, and reduce Internet service provider (“ISP”) competition. He said:
The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market. As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.
Emphasis added. Commissioner Pai concludes that customers’ choices in ISPs and carriers will still be just as limited and, frankly, as awful as they are now. And with passage, since there is no increase in competition, the big corporations such as TWC and Comcast will continue to charge an arm and a leg for broadband Internet. Although progressives’ ideals of regulatory economics has long rejected arguments to the contrary, allowing new business models is critical to promote competition, particularly from smaller providers and new market entrants, and ultimately helps consumers with lower prices and greater choice. (Isn’t the Obama Administration pro-choice?) Entrepreneurs need the flexibility to experiment with different business models and service plans so they can stand out from their much larger and lobbyist-laden competitors.
Importantly, courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation during the Obama years. For instance, on January 14, 2014, the D.C. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals struck down most of the FCC’s November 2011 “net neutrality” rules. The Appellate Court then vacated the FCC’s “anti-discrimination” and “anti-blocking” regulations as both discriminatory and blocking in an attempt to again give the FCC political appointees the power to dictate what the FCC believes is “honest, equitable, and balanced.” My older readers will remember that when the FCC imposed the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1949, which required holders of media broadcast licenses to present “issues of public importance” in a manner that is “honest, equitable, and balanced” in the view of the FCC. But it would take 39 years before a conservative Congress could overturn the Fairness Doctrine, a policy that threatened the loss of radio or television licenses. (Try to imagine Christian media and even American talk radio today if holders of media licenses had to contend with a modern-day version of the Fairness Doctrine.) However, we can no longer rely upon these new regulations being thrown out by the courts. Since the prior rulings of the Washington, D.C., Appellate Court, the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid loaded up that powerful appellate court with Obama judicial appointees following a remarkable change to the long-standing filibuster rules in the Senate. My readers know how your government works. Of the following, pick the one you prefer: Private schools or government-run schools? Private swimming pools or government-run swimming pools? Private bathrooms or public bathrooms? FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service? Private housing or government-owned and managed housing? And now, private Internet or government-run Internet? So if you like Mr. Obama’s idea of turning the Internet into a “telephone service” monopoly that would empower an intrusive federal bureaucracy (Department of the Internet?) that thrives on high taxes, heavy-handed regulations and controls, and the technological status quo, you will love the Obama-Wheeler Internet plan. Remember that the First Amendment does not provide the federal government the power to regulate the free-flow of information. But if you are skeptical about government control over the Internet, and want independent voices, such as Mere Comments, to stay strong, then you might want to let the FCC know your views here, as well as your congressional representatives. I already did.
A Fast for the Feast
Anthony Esolen on the hymn Audi, benigne Conditor by Pope Gregory the Great
We are a Resurrection People,” say the bishops of the Catholic Church in Canada, and therefore we will keep kneeling at Mass to the barest minimum. “We are a Resurrection People,” said the priests and theologians in my youth, and therefore we will not have priests wear black for funerals, and we will replace the crucifix above the sanctuary with the risen Christ free-floating from the Cross behind. When I was a small boy, we were required to fast from the previous midnight before we received Communion. Now, we Catholics are required to “fast” one hour before, and since one hour is about what it takes to get in the car, drive to church, get settled there, and hear Mass before Communion, all that it means, practically, is that we aren’t to be munching on cookies in the pews. I suppose that that, too, is because “We are a Resurrection People,” so, although we may not be a Grammar People or a Scripture People or an Obedience People, we can indulge the body as we please. It’s only the body, after all.
More Lenten reading from the Touchstone online archive.