Sunday, September 30, 2012

George Washington and John Adams on Foreign Policy

Last year I wrote an article for the Spokane Libertarian Examiner in which I discussed the unprecedented build-up of America's military that was occuring under the Obama administration. Since I wrote the article the situation has, unfortunately, only got worse.

One of the things I pointed out in the article was that in his In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned future gegenerations of Americans against becoming entangled in the affairs of other nations. He said, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.”
 
In the early days of the American Republic, Washington’s advice was heeded. Thus, in 1821, America’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, could reflect back and boast that
[America] has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart.... Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.
Further Reading
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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Soft Gag

The European courts are currently having to navigate through an increasingly complex network of rights, and to adjudicate between competing rights when they bump up against each other (for example, when the right of an employee to express his religious faith collides with the right of an employer to discriminate). As I was reflecting on this, Daniel Hannan reminded me of an amusing antidote that Mark Steyn shared last year. After discussing the absurdities in hate crime legislation, Steyn pointed out how the exact same words can simultaneously be legal or illegal depending on who the perceived victim happens to be. He writes,
...the very same words can be proof of two entirely different hate crimes. Iqbal Sacranie is a Muslim of such exemplary "moderation" he's been knighted by the Queen. The head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal was interviewed on the BBC and expressed the view that homosexuality was "immoral," was "not acceptable," "spreads disease," and "damaged the very foundations of society." A gay group complained and Sir Iqbal was investigated by Scotland Yard's "community safety unit" for "hate crimes" and "homophobia." Independently but simultaneously, the magazine of GALHA (the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association) called Islam a "barmy doctrine" growing "like a canker" and deeply "homophobic." In return, the London Race Hate Crime Forum asked Scotland Yard to investigate GALHA for "Islamophobia." Got that? If a Muslim says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for homophobia; but if a gay says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for Islamophobia. Two men say exactly the same thing and they're investigated for different hate crimes.
That was taken from Mark Steyn's article 'Gagging us Softly.' The value of his article goes beyond merely drawing attention to the absurd situations which arise when the right of free speech is qualified by the right of minority groups not to be criticized. Steyn also shows a more sinister agenda at work once Westerners grow comfortable having the state micro-regulate their public discourse.
Mark Steyn
Across almost all the Western world apart from America, the state grows ever more comfortable with micro-regulating public discourse—and, in fact, not-so-public discourse: Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, has been tried, been acquitted, had his acquittal overruled, and been convicted of "racism" for some remarks about Islam's treatment of women made (so he thought) in private but taped and released to the world. The Rev. Stephen Boissoin was convicted of the heinous crime of writing a homophobic letter to his local newspaper and was sentenced by Lori Andreachuk, the aggressive social engineer who serves as Alberta's "human rights" commissar, to a lifetime prohibition on uttering anything "disparaging" about homosexuality ever again in sermons, in newspapers, on radio—or in private e-mails. Note that legal concept: not "illegal" or "hateful," but merely "disparaging." Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the English town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a "public order" charge by Constable Adams, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community-outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine had been overheard by the officer to observe that homosexuality is a sin. "I'm gay," said Constable Adams. Well, it's still a sin, said Mr. McAlpine. So Constable Adams arrested him for causing distress to Constable Adams….
In such a climate, time-honored national characteristics are easily extinguished. A generation ago, even Britain's polytechnic Trots and Marxists were sufficiently residually English to feel the industrial-scale snitching by family and friends that went on in Communist Eastern Europe was not quite cricket, old boy. Now England is Little Stasi-on-Avon, a land where, even if you're well out of earshot of the gay-outreach officer, an infelicitous remark in the presence of a co-worker or even co-playmate is more than sufficient. Fourteen-year-old Codie Stott asked her teacher at Harrop Fold High School whether she could sit with another group to do her science project as in hers the other five pupils spoke Urdu and she didn't understand what they were saying. The teacher called the police, who took her to the station, photographed her, fingerprinted her, took DNA samples, removed her jewelry and shoelaces, put her in a cell for three and a half hours, and questioned her on suspicion of committing a Section Five "racial public-order offence." "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark," declared the headmaster, Antony Edkins. The school would "not stand for racism in any form." In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said they took "hate crime" very seriously, and their treatment of Miss Stott was in line with "normal procedure."
… Restrictions on freedom of speech undermine the foundations of justice, including the bedrock principle: equality before the law. When it comes to free expression, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe are ever less lands of laws and instead lands of men—and women, straights and gays, Muslims and infidels—whose rights before the law vary according to which combination of these various identity groups they belong to.

Further Reading


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Thursday, September 27, 2012

America and the Middle East

As the U.N. General Assembly continues its 67th session, two things have become clear about the Middle East: (1) it’s a mess; (2) the West cannot fix the endemic problems.

These two things were clear from day one of the General Assembly. Of course, the fact that the West cannot fix the problems in the Middle East does not mean that America will cease to try. All indications suggest that America’s involvement in the Middle East will only increase in the days ahead, even if it ends up plunging the nation (and, by extension, all the nations who depend on the dollar as a reserve currency) into economic Armageddon. 

Is there a solution? I believe there is, and I have written to explain what that solution is in my article for the Spokane Libertarian Examiner at the following link:


Why America Should Stop Meddling in the Middle East

An Encounter with Jehovah's Witnesses

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

It was a bright and cold December morning and I was up to my elbows in bread dough when my doorbell rang. The dog barked at full volume, and my preschool daughter zipped past me as I brushed the flour from my hands and followed her to the door. There waited a lovely, tall, professionally dressed young woman, smiling confidently as if she were arriving for a job interview. She offered me some free literature on the Bible and asked if she could read me a Bible verse or two. I put the dog out, forgot about my bread, and said, “Sure!”

I saw from her pamphlet that she was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses, so I quizzed her a little. “Oh yes, we believe salvation is totally by grace – there is nothing we could ever do to earn it.” She came across as sincere and earnest, used all the right words, and we agreed on most everything we discussed in that short exchange. I found that I liked her. But I knew there were problems with the message she was bringing to my home. “Is it Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that Jesus is the same person as Michael the archangel?” I asked. I knew one of the aberrant groups taught this, but I wasn’t sure which one.

“Yes!” her face lit up as this connection was made.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vibrant Cultures

"Vibrant cultures make space for leisure, philosophical reflection, scientific and intellectual mastery, and artistic and literary expression, among other things. Within the larger Christian community in America, one can find such vitality in pockets here and there. Yet where they do exist, they are eclipsed by the greater prominence and vast resources of the political activists and their organizations. What is more, there are few if any places in the pronouncements and actions of the Christian Right o the Christian Left (none that I could find) where these gifts are acknowledged, affirmed, or celebrated. What this means is that rather than being defined by its cultural achievements, its intellectual and artistic vitality, its service to the needs of others, Christianity is defined to the outside world by its rhetoric of resentment and the ambitions of a will in opposition to others." James Davison Hunter, To Change the World

Monday, September 24, 2012

Feminism Creates Love Liabilities

In 1934, Naomi Mitchison complained that the feminist movement was creating a generation of women so fostered on a defiant idea of equality that the mere sensation of the male embrace roused an undercurrent of resentment.
 
Commenting on Mitchison’s words in his essay ‘Equality’, C. S. Lewis observed that “at some level consent to inequality, nay, delight in inequality, is an erotic necessity.” Lewis went on to speak of the tragic-comedy of the modern woman who is “taught by Freud to consider the act of love the most important thing in life, and then inhibited by feminism from that internal surrender which alone can make it a complete emotional success.”

Keep reading...



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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Anti-Intellectual Presidency

Elvin T. Lim is a political scientist from Wesleyan University and the author of The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush. The book looks specifically at presidential speeches, yet his observations have relevance across the spectrum of our nation’s political discussions. In an article I wrote for the Charles Colson Center I say this about Lim's book:

Professor Lim points out that the speeches given by presidents are increasingly filled with vacuous statements that do not invite rational disputation. Speeches are designed to maximize applause lines, stroke the emotions and appeal to our intuitions, while being lean on substantive content. As such, presidential rhetoric completely bypasses the type of higher order thought necessary for proper analysis.
Lim has amassed an impressive array of evidence to chronicle the steady dumbing-down of Presidential rhetoric. He calls this dumbing-down process “anti-intellectualism”, and with good reason. He contrasts it with the classical understanding of rhetoric. For the ancients, good rhetoric included logos (the weighing and judging of reasons for a particular course of action), ethos (the credibility of the speaker) and pathos (emotional appeal). “Presidential rhetoric today” Lim writes, “is short on logos, disingenuous on ethos, and long on pathos. 
Lim also criticizes Presidential rhetoric for its simplicity. He quotes the famous Presidential speech writer Peggy Noonan who once said, “It is simplicity that gives the speech its power... And we pick the signal up because we have gained a sense in our lives that true things are usually said straight and plain and direct.”
What’s wrong with Noonan’s approach? When Lim was being interviewed by Ken Myers, he suggested that “simplicity does not guarantee the truth, only the semblance of sincerity….It is true that most of the time when we are being truthful we say things simply and we don’t hide behind the obscuration of words – that’s exactly true. But that has no relation to the truth content of what’s being said at all. A highly rhetorically adept person can well articulate things simply and yet conceal them precisely via the simplicity of his words.”

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The Whatness of an Apple

"In scholastic philosophy," Wikipedia informs us, "quiddity was another term for the essence of an object, literally it's "whatness,' or 'what it is.'" 

After reading that, I began thinking a lot about the 'whatness' of things. Here I am deeply contemplating the whatness of an apple. (Courtesy of Jerry Janquart Salvo Magazine.)

Robin contemplating the whatness of an apple

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Runaway Slave

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger


Pastor, Patriot  
A Conversation with C. L. Bryant

Rev. C. L. Bryant
C.L. Bryant is a descendent of Choctaw Indian and American slave. He lives in Grand Cane, Louisiana, on a 64-acre parcel of land he inherited from his great-grandfather, an emancipated slave. Formerly a pastor and self-professed “Democratic Radical” who “would have thrown any conservative under the bus,” C.L. served as an NAACP chapter president until a conflict between NAACP politics and his Christian faith sparked an ideological awakening. When C.L. began advocating conservative positions, he lost his pastorate because “a conservative viewpoint wasn’t the right message that they wanted to come from their pastor.” C.L. acknowledges that the founders of America owned slaves and that it was sinful and wrong, but he also unabashedly says that God has worked it out for good. He calls American Blacks to embrace their God-given freedom, forgive the whites of history, and stop buying the meme of racism. Today, he is a fellow with FreedomWorks in Washington, D.C. and is involved in the Tea Party movement throughout America. C.L. was gracious enough to speak with me about his new film, Runaway Slave.  

From Democratic Radical to Tea Party leader. How did that come about?
Back in the late 80s, I was asked by the NAACP to speak at a pro-choice rally. I refused. Then I noticed that the agenda that I had set forth was not being relished as it once was. I realized that they didn’t just want to control the agenda. They wanted to control me. Further examination led me to understand that I was being used as a tool to indoctrinate and control a block of people. The growing venom toward me caused me to leave there after my second term.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Power of Ideas

It is reported that William Temple, who became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, once asked his father, who was then the Archbishop, “Daddy, why don’t the philosophers rule the world?” His father looked down at the boy and replied, “Of course they do, silly—two hundred years after they’re dead!” 

The more one studies history, the more apparent it becomes that William Temple’s father had a point.  In fact, we could state the matter in even stronger terms: there has never been a more powerful influence, a greater agency of change or a stronger force for good or ill in this world than that of human ideas.

Such a statement may seem out of place in a society that has long since relegated philosophy (the science of correct thinking) to a specialist discipline. Reflection on ideas has little or no relevance to the world of everyday affairs, many people think. We have come a long way from the time when philosophy was considered to be the backbone of all the disciplines, including the sciences (indeed, the early scientists called themselves “Natural Philosophers”).

One’s philosophy of the world, or worldview, is still the backbone for how we view everything else, whether we realize it or not.  This is even true for those who have never given much thought to questions of worldview. As John Byl puts it in his book The Divine Challenge, “Many people hold their worldviews implicitly, without having deeply reflected on what they believe and why they believe it. They may not even realize that they have a worldview. Consequently, they may unwittingly hold beliefs that are mutually contradictory.”

A person’s life, motivations, priorities, agendas, conversation, and assumptions are just some of the areas affected by our philosophy of the world, whether that philosophy is thought-out or merely implicit and unconscious.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cultural Engagement and Christian Sweetness

How can the way Christians engage with culture show the sweetness of Christian faith to the watching world? I have some thoughts on this question which I've shared in my ChangePoint column at the Charles Colson Center. To read my article, click on the following link:

Sunday, September 09, 2012

On Bringing Communism to the Inner Man

"Communism, as such, never worked. Even during the heyday of the Soviet Union, the outcomes that Marx predicted never materialized. Yet even as the visible symbols of Marxism came crashing down at the close of the twentieth century, there was another, more subtle, version of Marxism coming to fruition. The apparent downfall of communism merely masked the imminent victory of a new variant, one that was less visible yet more subversive, less observable yet more insidious.”
“Gramsci realized, that the proletariat revolution could never succeed until the integrity of the culture that was blocking it had been compromised. Before the political hegemony of communism could emerge, the ideological hegemony of Christianity would first have to be dismantled. Workers must begin to see themselves as being separated from the ruling classes not through economics but through ideology. Marxist categories must first be internalized by the masses before they could be externalized by the socialist political parties. This could happen only to the degree that such categories came to permeate every level of society, becoming part of the very air people breathed. Once the new values formed the unchallenged assumptions—the collective “common sense”—of society, the aims of the revolution could be brought to bear. When that happened, a revolution would not be necessary, for the people would willingly embrace the communist solution." Saints and Scoundrels, page 270 & 274

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Mike Adams, Rebel Revolutionary

 by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Mike S. Adams
Mike Adams hopped off a bus in front of a small prison on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. A visiting professorship in South America had brought him here this damp morning to interview prisoners and guards as part of a human rights mission. It was just after 9:00am on March 7th, 1996. At this point in his life, the thirty-one year old tenured professor of Criminology was a radical, hardened, and very angry atheist. Three hours later, he would walk out a different man.

A young prisoner named Pedro met him at the main gate and served as his guide. Pedro had been in for four years for forging a passport. He’d been acquitted, but his family was still raising the required fee to “process” his release. Once inside the inner gates, Mike nearly keeled over when he took his next breath. Human waste, unwashed bodies, and pools of coagulated filth that stuck to your shoes after you walked through it made for an insufferable stench. When they approached the kitchen, the smell of rotten food aggravated the assault on his senses, but what he saw outside the kitchen assaulted his psyche even more.

A teenage boy – he was at most eighteen – was getting a severe beating. What offense he’d committed, Mike didn’t know, but it almost sounded like his bones were breaking as they struck him mercilessly. Tenemos visitas, pare! someone shouted. “Stop, we have visitors!” and the club dropped. The helpless youth, shaking as he was being carried out, lifted his eyes, as if to say, Gracias seƱor, for coming through when you did. At that point the professor’s composure started to unravel.

Monday, September 03, 2012

2016: Obama's America


Last week I went to the theater with some friends to watch 2016: Obama's America. Based on Dinesh D'Souza's book The Roots of Obama's Rage, this movie is a revealing, and at times terrifying, journey into Obama's past and the anti-America thinkers who exercised a formative influence on him.

I recommend that every America watch this movie, but if you are not able to, then read my review of D'Souza's book at the link below (which has been updated since I saw the movie):


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On Suffering

"George MacDonald helps us to understand that suffering can be redemptive. His was not an easy life. Providing for eleven children was always a great weight on his mind, even after his books began to sell. Witnessing the death of four of his children was even harder. MacDonald also experienced physical suffering, struggling all his life with eczema, asthma, and bronchitis. Moreover, he often experienced periods of intense doubt, depression, and dryness. However, throughout all these trials, he retained a childlike trust in God, believing that his heavenly Father was using everything that happened to him—including the challenging circumstances—to make him more like Jesus. This perspective helped him to see his periods of spiritual dryness as gifts sent for the perfecting of his faith. “That man is perfect in faith,” he once wrote, “who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, ‘Thou art my refuge." Saints and Scoundrels, page 249


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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Trinity Talk Interview

Last month I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Uri Brito for the Trinity Talk podcast. The interview centered around my recent book Saints and Scoundrels.

Using my book as a springboard, we touched on everything from why Christ's kingdom is of this world (that's right), to Gnosticism, to how Christendom is good. To listen to the interview, click on the following link:


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