Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Lifeboats of the World

"Life in the wide world goes on much as it has these past age, full of its own comings and goings, scarcely aware of the existence of hobbits..."
So said Gandalf right before the great race to Mount Doom, right before he discovered the treachery of Saruman and the dire state his enemies had wrought. Similarly, we stand on the edge of a great precipice, made plain by the events of the past year, rumored at and hinted for years before that.> Perhaps Leo XIII saw truly; perhaps the many, many Marian apparitions of the past century have warned accurately; perhaps we stand on the edge of unimaginable times. If we do, then a return to a certain historical institution is in order.

Our current Holy Father took the name Benedict XVI, bringing back memories of an ancient Benedict, one who was a true blessing to the Church and to the world. But for him and the monasteries he founded or inspired, Western Christendom could not have arisen. The immense contributions of the monastic system to human civilization have been mentioned rather less emphatically than they deserve. Like the ancient Benedict, we are confronted with a dramatically corrupt civilization, one that has surrendered to the lures of greed, lust, and a hedonistic materialism that enervates the soul and drags down its adherents in a deathly sloth, ;destroying both Christian and natural virtue. I speak as one who has experienced these temptations--indeed, almost any child of the modern age could say the same.

Like the ancient Benedict, a person watching current events through the eyes of faith can realize that much of what we see is sin punishing sin--that is, when one breaks natural law, natural consequences ensue. When one breaks the fundamental moral laws of economics in the name of profit, the system will break down. These laws run deeper than an imperative to Christian charity or anything demanding supernatural grace. Laws as basic as "give the customer what they pay for," "do not advertise falsely," and so forth have been broken in a systemic way.

The consequences are likewise systemic. The same applies to the breakdown of marriage and the family, to the human relationship with the environment, to the relationships within the Church. Anyone reading of Catholicism before Vatican II and living it after Vatican II will recognize a deep rift between the depth and luminosity of the Catholic mind then and the massive fog of confusion now. There needs to be a restoration of the monasteries as centers for the preservation of learning, for self-sufficiency through crisis, for stable links to the past preparing for the future and living the Christian vocation in the present.

For the love of God and of truth, for the healing of the present society and preparation for what dreams may come, the Church needs the Benedictines and the like to take up once again the ancient call of being life boats for the world following the Barque of Peter.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hamas and the Nature of Jihad

The Israeli/Palestinian conflict constitutes a small but important part of a broader struggle (jihad) that has been waged for centuries. Indeed, Israel’s war for survival could never merely be viewed as an isolated regional struggle—the history of Israel and the Jews usually exists as a microcosm, fractally resembling macrocosmic realities—but must be understood in the wider context of the history of dhimmitude, the nature of the jihad instituted by Mohammed in the latter years of his life and expanded by the Righteous Caliphs coming after him, and the world scenario today. 

The Mumbai attacks made abundantly clear the international scope of the current conflict when Pakistani jihadists singled out Chabad House, perhaps the only institutional presence of Judaism in all of India, as a special target. Pakistani "militants", according to much of the news coverage, could have no special grievance against Jews--so what could possibly have caused such odd profiling? Islamic sources for centuries have viewed the Jews with special contempt for failing to live up to the revelation given them by God. Further, the Jews have had the temerity to take back from Islamic hands lands once gained by jihad. They refuse to accept the status of the dhimmi (protected) class, preferring instead to maintain control of their ancestral homeland and refusing to give way to sharia and Islamic rule. 

The purpose of jihad is the imposition of sharia. American history makes that clear. The American struggle against the Barbary pirates remains little remembered, but it helped give rise to the Constitutional Congress and our modern day system of government. These pirates were not merely out for plunder, though. In March of 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams met with the Tripolitan ambassador in Britain and asked him why the Barbary pirates attacked the U.S. His answer, as recorded by Jefferson and Adams in a letter to John Jay, deserves to be sent to every federal official, every leader and media representative as the best summary of jihadi warfare extant. The Ambassador replied:
…that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.
This, of course, makes sense of the current warfare exploding around the globe. His answer rings true when compared to the Hamas Charter, to the Madrid train bombings, to 9/11, to the London Tube bombings, to any one or all of Islamist terror attacks in recent years. The non-Muslim world faces, once again, a determined effort to place us under Islamic rule in obedience to doctrines enshrined in the Islamic sources of orthodoxy by a certain set within Islam. It has been ever thus since the time of Mohammed.

For more on all this, see  The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, and The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians Under Islam, for starters.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Retrospective: Did It Really Hurt That Much?

2008 is gone. The retrospectives sounded staggering, really. How often does one realize that in a single year, each month provided some event of such magnitude that they would have defined any other year? The Chinese earthquake, and then the Olympics; the collapse of Bear Sterns, then later Lehman and possibly the US financial system; the Russian invasion of Georgia, and then the Israeli invasion of Gaza; and so forth, till I realized how much I’d forgotten. Unimaginable times, only set to burgeon the more. We are told to expect worse things from the economy—recession in the US economy, continued contraction in the world economy. The effects of such a recession promise to be profound and unpredictable—especially for the younger generations used to ongoing prosperity and a continuous climb away from poverty and hunger towards the bright new World of Man. We cannot expect Hamas and Israel to ever come to an accord without Hamas altering its stated first principles, those fundamentals upon which all its policy is based and around which all its actions center—among which is perpetual jihad till Israel exist no longer. The Israeli invasion cannot properly be considered a crisis in the sense of a sudden worsening of a previously stable situation. Israel and Palestine have been at war for generations, now, no matter PNA President Abbas’s stated focus on a two state solution. If the Palestinian government had truly been interested in a two state solution, the suicide bomber and “one Palestine from sea to sea” propaganda would have been stopped and Hamas put out of existence a long time ago. China stands on the edge of a knife. A lot of economists and world scene watchers hold out hope for China’s quick recovery. They hope it shall be able to take the role of the US in the world economy, shall rise stronger than ever—a prospect which ought to be more feared than hoped for. There’s something a little mad about desperation for another nation of mass consumers—especially when this involves completely ignoring such inconvenient facts as the means by which China’s export economy is maintained, what happens to political prisoners when they disappear in the dark of night, religious oppression under Chinese rule, etc., etc., ad nauseam. If China rises while the West falls, a great many things promise to be swept away, among them freedom, human rights, and possibly the countries surrounding it in Asia. The Church continues mixed. Benedict leads. Some follow. He works hard, and the West yawns. Locally, the bishops of the U.S. have mapped out different courses this past year through reaction to President-elect Obama’s campaign and platform, through reaction to Representative Pelosi and Vice-President Elect Biden. Politics does not give a real reading of a Catholic bishop—their primary job remains to be Lords Spiritual and not Temporal—but in times to come, the state of the nation may intrude more into the affairs of the Church than is comfortable.


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