What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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September 2010 Archives

September 1, 2010

The Metaphysics of Thelonious Monk

Some half-baked thoughts on aesthetics, jazz, and popular culture.

Everything that is not forbidden is compulsory

Readers of T. H. White's Once and Future King will recognize the title of this entry from the visit to the ant colony. The rule always struck me as both humorous and chilling.

I believe that Americans are coming to accept what one might call a close cousin of the rule that everything that is not forbidden is compulsory. Support for this conjecture comes from the entry Bill Luse posted about ABC's show concerning a (fake) pharmacist who did not want to prescribe birth control pills for a minor girl. The ABC announcer makes a special point of interjecting a comment when the "pharmacist" and some of the people agree that the girl should not be having sexual intercourse without the knowledge of her parents. "But in most states," intones the announcer, "she doesn't have to tell her parents anything."

Notice the sweeping implication: If she is not required by law to tell her parents anything, she "doesn't have to" tell them anything in any sense whatsoever.

Well, that settles it! If she is not forbidden to have sex without her parents knowledge, then the rest of the world is compelled to aid and abet her in doing so insofar as it falls within their scope, and particularly within the scope of their public and commercial activities.

In this view of the world, there is no space between legal and social penalties. If the law says that you are not forbidden to do something, that is the only thing that matters. It is only the "opinion" implied by the law that ought to have any power over you. Others are not permitted to engage in shunning or refusal to associate with you. Only the State has a right to express disapproval--in the form of making your activity illegal. No other effective form of social discouragement ought to exist.

Thus the power of the State is increased many-fold. On the one hand, this view encourages us to outlaw anything we disapprove of, with obvious implications for the increase of government power. On the other hand, this view encourages an absolute uniformity of thought, opinion, behavior, and association, dictated by the common denominator of what is legal. If it isn't illegal, it is wrong for you to try to discourage it even by the passive means of refusing your cooperation or approval. Such disapproval and non-cooperation is wrong-thought and wrong-act; it is, in fact, discrimination, than which nothing worse can be conceived.

The State giveth, and the State taketh away, and don't you forget it.

I do not know whether liberals will be the long-term beneficiaries of the resultant soft totalitarianism. In the short-term, since they are currently in a position to make the rules, the benefits to them and to the spread of their view of the world are considerable. And perhaps I should not try to warn them to be careful what they wish for lest they get it. Maybe all such pragmatic considerations tend to favor their side of the culture war anyway.

Conservatives, however, would do well to consider the benefits of greater freedom and, in particular, of a public space in which purely social penalties can exist. When our overlords really have everyone convinced that whatever is not forbidden is compulsory, it will not be a pretty sight from our perspective.

September 2, 2010

Fellow Travelling

A few years ago, Josh Trevino invited me to contribute to a new blog for social conservatives, "Enchiridion Militis." He knew me as a commenter on his original blog, "Tacitus," and as a contributor to the blog for conservative philosophers, "Right Reason," and thought well enough of my stuff to give me a shot - for which I am undyingly grateful to him.

Unfortunately, EM proved fairly short-lived - partly, I think, because I was a pretty vocal fan of Steve Sailer and other proponents of "human bio-diversity," while Josh wanted nothing to do with such people.

Fortunately, out of the ashes of EM, What's Wrong With the World arose. Under the aegis of Paul Cella, Zippy Catholic, William Luse, Jeff Martin, Daniel Larison, and Lydia McGrew (i.e., by my count, three Roman Catholics, two Eastern Orthodox, and one high-church Anglican) WWWW was, from the beginning, a much more explicitly Christian site than was EM. So it was purely out of kindness, and for old times' sake, that I - well known to be gay and religiously agnostic - was invited to sign on.

I remain as undyingly grateful to Paul & Zippy &c for putting up with me as I was to Josh Trevino for asking me around in the first place, way back when. But, for the record, and just so there's no misunderstanding: I'm still gay, and I'm still agnostic - and I'm still way into "human bio-diversity."

Moreover: just because I love, from my very depths, the Euro-Christian tradition that led to, e.g., Chartres and the Isenheim Altarpiece and Parsifal and The Lord of the Rings doesn't mean that I can't be horrified, from the very same depths, by what seems to me to be the trajectory of Christianity today. And that's where I join forces with my friend Matthew Roberts.

September 3, 2010

Of mosques and men in blue

I just learned yesterday of this other case (see also here), also from this summer, in which police arrested Christians for evangelizing Muslims (outside of a mosque) and confiscated their camera. The police seemed to take it very much amiss that they were videotaping in the first place.

A few salient differences from the case of the Dearborn four:

--In Philadelphia, the police (originally, the UPenn campus police, eventually supplemented by Philadelphia's finest) expressly asked the missionaries to stop their street preaching and singing outside the mosque, and the Christians refused. The Acts 17 folks, on the other hand, were never told to stop and in fact were told, "You're fine" by the police shortly before they were arrested with no further directions or explanation.

--The Philadelphia police not only confiscated but erased the Christians' videotape evidence. This should be treated as a very serious matter.

Now, for those who think that I jump to conclusions, I will say this: I know less about the Philadelphia case than I do about the Dearborn case, and it appears that one of the people arrested in Philadelphia (Marcavage) has had a stormy relationship with the City of Philadelphia already in areas apparently unrelated to Muslim evangelism. (E.g., He won a lawsuit allowing him to preach near the Liberty Bell.) So it is possible that the over-zealousness of the police in this case is related more to dislike of Marcavage than to Islam.

It is, however, a relevant question: In point of fact, the Acts 17 people were not told to stop talking to Muslims and the Philadelphia group was. The Acts 17 guys bent over backwards to show that they were not, in fact, being uncooperative, and I would guess that if they had been told to leave or to break off a conversation, they would have done so. They were arrested summarily with no such opportunity, as the video evidence bears out. But is it really the case that the boys in blue can just come up to you and say, "You have to stop talking on a public street" and must be obeyed? If so, that is a bit disturbing. It's not that I don't believe that police need some flex and some discretion to decide--on grounds that may not always be subject to rigid codification--that people are being loud or disturbing or need to be "moved along." That kind of discretion and on-the-spot judgment makes sense to me. On the other hand, when it seems to be exercised arbitrarily or, to put it differently, to be exercised specifically against Christian witness or specifically in contexts where it merely serves Muslim sensibilities, I have to call foul. Particularly interesting in Philadelphia is the report (if you believe it) of the female officer saying, "I'm concerned about what's on the video" as the prisoners are led away.

Certainly it seems clear that the police over-reacted in this case. I have no doubt that the image of large numbers of police descending upon the place and grabbing the camera is a correct description. It even invites a certain amount of humor: "We need backup. We suspect they have a hymnal! And we heard something about the Sword of the Spirit!" More to the point, it seems plausible to me that sometimes police justify the characterization of people as "problem people" by means of an exaggerated response. By bringing in large numbers of police they imply that these people must require many police to subdue.

Update on Acts 17: It is still unclear whether the charges against them will be dismissed. The judge has extended the date for deciding. It appears plausible that if their case does go to trial it will depend on testimony that was obscured in the first flurry of other wild accusations against them (of inciting a riot, etc.)--namely the fantasy-based testimony of one Roger Williams (I note the irony in the name), a self-styled Christian who claims to have been "surrounded" by Acts 17 some time before a "crowd" gathered about them (which was the original reason the police gave for arresting them). His testimony is refuted by video evidence, though the video evidence is partly incomplete because he asked them to turn off their camera, and part of their interaction with him (at his request) took place with the camera turned off. In any event, it seems plausible that some part at least of the charges will be entirely dismissed. I assume that they have not yet filed a civil suit against the Dearborn police, et. al., because they are waiting to see first how the court will deal with the criminal charges.

I Wish I Couldn't Believe This

While the Obama administration sues the state government of Arizona for trying, however feebly, actually to enforce federal rules about border security, and while it wrings its hands before the farcical UN "Human Rights Council" over the horrors of "racial profiling" which such enforcement might conceivably entail...

...wealthy and powerful gangs of Mexican traffickers in drugs & humans have more or less taken over whole areas of Arizona:

"Pinal County Sheriff Baul Babeu, whose county lies at the center of major drug and alien smuggling routes to Phoenix and cities East and West, attests to the violence. He said his deputies are outmanned and outgunned by drug traffickers in the rough-hewn desert stretches of his own county.

"'Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona,' he said. 'They...have scouts on the high point in the mountains and in the hills and they...control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.

"'This is going on here in Arizona,' he said. 'This is 70 to 80 miles from the border - 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States.'

"He said he asked the Obama administration for 3,000 National Guard soldiers to patrol the border but what he got was 15 signs..."

...signs "warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers."

Continue reading "I Wish I Couldn't Believe This" »

September 4, 2010

Not Guilty

In a post which, though brief, displays many of the traits that have made him famous, Lawrence Auster revisits my "over-the-top personal attacks" on him from a year ago last June. I don't really have anything to add to what I wrote back then. Anyway, LA provides enough links for interested readers to decide for themselves who is guilty of over-the-top personal attacks on whom.

But there's one issue that comes up in his post which I should probably clear up. Auster's very astute commenter Gerry Neal mentions an article by Jerry Salyer in the August 10th issue of Chronicles entitled "Where the Demons Dwell: The Antichrist Right", wherein I am singled out as a representative of "neopaganism" who supposedly regards "the Church as the worst thing that ever happened to Western civilization."

This is so wrong that it just couldn't be any wronger. Mr. Salyer would have come closer to the truth if he had written that I regard Christianity as the best thing that ever happened to Western civilization.

But that, too would be an exaggeration.

Fortunately, there's no need for me to reinvent the wheel. Because my attitude toward the Christian Church has already been perfectly summed up by a fellow agnostic, in a brief interview which I happened to come across today:

Continue reading "Not Guilty" »

September 5, 2010

Sunday Thought: Revealed Unto Babes

It is easiest to tell what transubstantiation is by saying this: little children should be taught about it as early as possible. Not of course using the word...because it is not a little child's word. But the thing can be taught... by whispering. ."Look! Look what the priest is doing...He's saying Jesus' words that change the bread into Jesus' body. Now he's lifting it up. Look! Now bow your head and say 'My Lord and my God...' "

Continue reading "Sunday Thought: Revealed Unto Babes" »

A Crack in the Wall

Duong Nge Ly is fortunate only in this: that he's not "white." And so his story can be told - in The Washington Post, no less:

"PHILADELPHIA -- Duong Nghe Ly can't wait to begin his senior year at South Philadelphia High School. A day of violence there last year changed his life, and he wants to learn if his school has been transformed as well.

"Last Dec. 3, after years of attacks on Asian immigrant students, something finally snapped.

"Fueled by rumors, a group of students roamed the halls searching for Asian victims until one was attacked in a classroom. Later, about 70 students stormed the cafeteria, where several Asians were beaten. About 35 students pushed past a police officer onto the so-called 'Asian floor,' but were turned back. After school, Asians being escorted home were attacked anyway by a mob of youths.

"Almost all the attackers were black - but..."

...hey, wait for it, you know it's coming, since this is, after all, The Washington Post:

"...few observers believe the violence was due to racial hatred. [emphasis added] Instead, they cite isolation of different groups within the school, certain students' warped 'gangster' values, and for some, simmering resentments over perceived benefits for Asian students."

May the hails of derisive laughter begin, now?

September 6, 2010

Race and the Church

Christianity is about only one thing in the end: reality, the whole undiluted truth about God and Man. The Church has expended 2,000 years fighting the least departure from truth - departures which look like mere trifles to outsiders - as though all eternity depended upon the outcome.

Race and "human bio-diversity", rightly understood and prioritized, capture one aspect of the reality of creation. Theologically, race is a consequence of the Fall, the separation of tongues at Babel. That doesn't make it any less real, nor does it mean that race is not somehow incorporated into the divine will. There exist groups of men who share common ancestors, who also tend to share certain physical and psychological and intellectual traits, and it is fitting that such groups be recognized in human language. Race does exist, and race does matter.

Continue reading "Race and the Church" »

September 7, 2010

Pop culture and the lure of Platonism


On Richard Weaver, Plato, and Aristotle, culture, conservatism, and Christianity. All in about five minutes. Over at my own blog.

Rifqa Bary receives permanent legal resident status

Rifqa Bary has a green card! Excellent news just announced today. Congratulations to her lawyer Kort Gatterdam and the rest of her legal team.

I got the news from Rifqabary.com. Pamela Geller also has the news up, but I don't notice any apology to Gatterdam. One might be in order given that a few weeks ago Pamela was insisting that Gatterdam had "failed" on Rifqa's immigration status. The spectacle of Geller's unrelenting campaign of negativity against Rifqa's legal team has been unedifying. The strife over Rifqa's legal strategy has resulted in Rifqa's estrangement (possibly at her lawyers' request) from her dear friend Jamal Jivanjee, just at a time when she needed all the friends she can get.

Congratulations to Rifqa! Let us hope that those who wish her well will be able to admit that they were wrong. May God continue to work for her healing (from cancer) and richly bless her in the years to come.

September 8, 2010

The Boy with the Black Brain

This is probably old news to people who keep up with this sort of thing, but this particular instance of the problem is new to me. There is a link at the end of this post to the msnbc webpage where you can watch the original Dateline video broadcast (11 minutes in length) and read the transcript. I saw the story the other night on Nat Geo, but there is no online video of that show.

Here's what happened. A young man named Zachary Dunlap was out four-wheeling (a fairly stupid form of recreation in my opinion) with some friends. On the way home, Zach's hat blew off and he went back to get it. In an effort to catch up with his friends he gunned the engine and "popped" a wheelie. The problem is that you can't see anything when you're in a wheelie, so he came out of it to find that he was about to smash into one of his friends. He swerved, the 4-wheeler flipped, and a frame bar came down on his face with a crushing force that fractured his skull in nine places. His friends called 911, noting to the operator that there was "brain matter coming out of his ears." He was medivac'ed to a hospital and put on a ventilator while they treated him for a broken collar bone, the skull fractures, and tried to stabilize the swelling in his bleeding brain. Said the trauma surgeon, Dr. Leo Mercer, "His brain injuries were absolutely catastrophic."

Continue reading "The Boy with the Black Brain" »

September 10, 2010

Is it acceptable to tell ill atheists that you are praying for them?


That was a nice, short post.

Okay, I do have some more to say. This subject came up at Wesley J. Smith's blog, Secondhand Smoke.

Smith's position is that it's legitimate for Christians to tell healthy atheists that they are praying for them but is insensitive to tell ill atheists the same thing. This is a rare case in which I disagree with Wesley, and I think the question raises related interesting issues.

Continue reading "Is it acceptable to tell ill atheists that you are praying for them?" »

September 11, 2010

Remember 9/11...

...it's victims, that is, in your own way, but do remember. Many have chosen silence and prayer, and that's good too. Poor at silence while bereft of insight...I often wonder if a day goes by that memory of that day does not cross my mind. I don't think so.

I was patrolling old posts at my own website, looking for memories, and found that from 2009, including a link to this program, 102 Minutes That Changed America.

And from 2005:

For me what brings home the essence of that day is not only the sight of the planes slicing into the towers, or word of the ones that crashed into the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside, but also of the actions of still living people on those latter two flights, and the reactions of the people on the ground at the sight of the former - the screams of horror and the tears of plain pity and empathy for what had been done to their brothers and sisters.

Continue reading "Remember 9/11..." »

Thoughts on September 11

The death and destruction visited upon 3,000 Americans by devout Mohammedans nine years ago, fulfilling the commands of their "holy" book, is well commemorated by other writers in the blogosphere. I will not add to their number, but only offer a few peripheral thoughts inspired by the occasion.


Let us reflect, this day, on the cause of canonization for Queen Isabel the Catholic, whose "reconquista" saved her country by the expulsion of the Moors. I have said often, and will repeat here, that the "war on terror" can and should be almost completely bloodless. If we deal with Islam appropriately here at home, there is no need for a "war on terror" in foreign lands.


The presence of Islam on American soil is absolute proof of the limits of religious pluralism and the insanity of religious "neutrality". The principle: nature abhors a vacuum.

Continue reading "Thoughts on September 11" »

September 14, 2010

Fragment on business and social responsibility.

The dictum of Milton Friedman, to the effect that the only social responsibility of a business corporation is to enrich its shareholders, wants some serious thought. It would seem to rest on a foundation of legal positivism: the business corporation is an artifact of human law, dedicated to a single purpose. To assign new and competing purposes is to misunderstand the artifact. The business executive who operates on this misunderstanding in effect has committed fraud. He has diverted resources entrusted to him to illegitimate purposes.

The error in this formulation, as I see it, lies precisely in its foundation of legal positivism. Do we acknowledge that business activity is native to man, at least in the sense that it is prior to any particular arrangement established by positive law? If so, then I think we are perforce acknowledging that business is to some degree entangled with the ends of man as such. Striving for consistency, we should go on and say that, whatever the particulars of the positive law governing business in a given society, the human activity of business is a deeper matter of human flourishing and positive law may take a wide variety of forms in instantiating it. We might even say that business activity rightly understood partakes of the great charter delivered by God to man, to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. In this light no stricture of positive law or ideological abbreviation can reduce business to purely a matter of shareholder wealth. Our business corporation may be an artifact of positive law; but business as such is inextricably tied up in nature and destiny man.

Continue reading "Fragment on business and social responsibility." »

September 15, 2010

Mark Shea's mind reading

Mark Shea's hysterical post and comments against W4 are striking for their lack of balance and even basic fairness. For example, Shea implies that Jeff Culbreath and I want to deport 18 million Muslims (presumably including citizens) despite the fact that neither of us has proposed doing anything of the kind.

Shea also doesn't seem interested in the fact that my proposals (here and here, in combination with Jeff's 1 and 2, here) are a good deal more moderate than some of those made by my esteemed colleague. We're both just "barking mad." It's pretty evident that the "barking mad" accusation applies in Shea's view to anyone who sees Islam in America as a problem or a danger and makes concrete proposals for responding to this problem.

As Paul Cella points out in this comment, it is difficult to discover when Shea liked our site, considering that warnings about the dangers of Muslim immigration have been on the cards for a long time and that Paul's jihad sedition proposal (included in my list) has been part of our repertoire from the beginning and before.

By the way, commentator The Deuce has a good comment in Shea's thread. (The green circle is supposed to represent world-wide Islam.)

I'd be interested to see how much of that green circle is made up of terrorists in general, not just Al Queda (which isn't even the biggest terrorist group by a longshot). I'd also like to see how many have engaged in non-terroristic acts of characteristically Muslim violence (chopping off hands, cutting of womens' noses or stoning them to death, honor killings, etc). I'd also like to see how much of the green circle is made up of Muslims who believe jihad is justifiable, even if they haven't engaged in it themselves. Finally, I'd like to see how many of them are in favor of sharia law. I suspect the numbers would be far more unsettling.

But what struck me most of all from a brief survey of Shea's post and the comments thread was this particular bit of attempted mind reading:

The goal of creating an Islam-free America carries with it the implication that Muslims are to be expelled from our shores forcibly if they will not leave willingly. If Culbreath means to free America from Islam by just means only ("Here's a $100,000. Leave.") then I can only say that it's not going to work, both because we will never cough up such money and because many Muslims would not take the offer if it were made since they have been here for decades and many are native-born. So either Culbreath is not serious about his Muslimrein America or he is not serious about using only just means to make them leave.

Well, thanks for letting us know what our fellow contributor thinks, even though he apparently doesn't know it himself. This is pretty sad stuff.

In Thanks for Friends in High Places

This appreciation must be decidedly brief (I hope to do a lengthier one for an upcoming issue of The Christendom Review), but Paul has asked me to note that today the Pope travels to England, his trip culminating on Sunday in the beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman. He will be declared as blessed with all the company of heaven, and worthy of public veneration.

Continue reading "In Thanks for Friends in High Places" »

September 16, 2010

Levity break

Although threats from American Muslims have sent Seattle resident Molly Norris into hiding, and the Center for Security Policy has just released a 177 page report confirming that domestic "stealth jihad" is a greater threat to American security than political acts of terrorism, nevertheless I feel it is time for a levity break here at W4.

I don't mean to boast or to inspire envy, for that would be rude and uncharitable, but in the video below you will get a taste of the kind of event for which I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat on a regular basis. Enjoy ...

September 18, 2010

A new way for government to support Islam

Terry Jones, the pastor who talked about burning a Koran and then didn't do it, is going to be billed by the city of Gainesville, FL, for the "security costs" they incurred in doing what they thought necessary to secure the city as a result of his plans.

Let's think about that: A U.S. citizen plans, and announces plans, to engage in a legal action. Because Islam is a Religion of Peace (TM), and because his planned action is widely publicized, the citizen's city is scared to death of all manner of terrorist threats, and the citizen himself receives death threats. The city then spends extra money on security procedures against the expected or feared actions of evil men planning to engage in terrorist acts, and the city bills the citizen for the costs to public security incurred by a public entity to protect public safety. It plans to bill the citizen on the grounds that it was his announcement of a planned legal action which was expected to enrage evil men belonging to the Religion of Peace (TM) that caused the perceived need for the extra security arrangements.

Is it possible that such a billing is even legal? Could it possibly survive a court challenge on the grounds of its self-evident chilling effect on political speech and action?

Think about how this could play out as a precedent: Suppose that I blog something that makes Muslims angry. Suppose that I were to receive death threats and that my city were to receive threats from terrorists angered by what I had blogged. My city could then, in effect, punish me for engaging in completely legal political speech by billing me for whatever extra actions they had taken not only to protect me but to protect the city as a whole, including sites far from my home, from Muslims angered by my blogging.

This isn't about Koran burning per se. This is about being able to do anything that makes Muslims angry without being punished by your government. In effect, such government billings say, "Sit down and shut up, dhimmi. Didn't you get the memo? We don't do anything around here that makes Muslims angry. And if you do, you pay."

This must not be allowed to stand.


What Is American Conservatism?

The objective of any social critic - a category encompassing all those writing about the intellectual life of a nation - must be, ought to be, to do justice to the thought of his subjects, while simultaneously situating them in their intellectual environs; the critic must convey the unique contributions and tenor of his subjects' work, but must also locate them in broader conversations, controversies, and discourses. The critic should also mediate between worlds, which is to say that he should translate discourses, often highly specialized, into the language of the generalist, thereby diffusing knowledge. With that in mind, one of the finest works of the genre is assuredly George Scialabba's What Are Intellectuals Good For?. To be certain, Scialabba is a man of the left, and certain of his analyses and arguments might infuriate conservatives; but the portrayals are almost always deft, judicious, penetrating, and delivered in fine prose, and conservatives should be willing to grapple with the works of the left, because actually-existing American conservatism labours under its own tensions, which tensions are often best perceived by outsiders. To eschew the hard criticisms is to wallow in the darkness of the cave, mistaking the shadow-play of political conflict for the deeper truths of the age - or the movement.

The significance of conservatism Scialabba proposes to explore in an essay on W.F. Buckley, on the occasion of John Judis' biography, published in 2001. About the biography, I cannot offer comment, as I have not read it; I will thus confine myself to Scialabba, on Buckley and conservatism. Here is how the essay commences:

Continue reading "What Is American Conservatism?" »

September 19, 2010

Sunday Thought: Behind Every Successful Man There is a...

In a sort of follow-up to my previous post, I’d like to say a word about another man who strode that Victorian stage along with Newman – sometimes beside him and sometimes not. They were often at loggerheads, being men very different in temperament, interests and degree and kind of ambition. He was significant enough that in biographies of Newman, he often needs a chapter all his own. Also a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, he was likely a very good man, possibly a holy man. His most passionate ministry was that which he exercised among the downtrodden slum dwellers of London. And he acquired quite the reputation for gaining converts. But there is one fact about him that I find most arresting, though I’m not sure why.

Continue reading "Sunday Thought: Behind Every Successful Man There is a..." »


In the long thread on 9/11 I made a comment which I thought was worth putting in a post of its own. Here it is:

As a general rule, "Bad people might hurt us if we do this" is a reason against doing X that should be handled with great care. Applied too frequently, it provides a perfect road to fatal weakness, to giving in to extortion and to every demand of bullies. Paying Danegeld was not a good idea strategically anymore than in any other sense.

Generally people bring up this reason only when they already strongly disapprove of an action on some independent grounds. In that case, the argument should be made on the independent grounds.

Nor does the action have to be strictly necessary in order for us to question the use of this argument. For example, it is not strictly necessary for any of us to write posts for this blog criticizing any of the tenets of Islam, for Christians to preach the Gospel in any particular case, or, for that matter, for leftists to criticize American foreign policy. Yet leftists would surely be outraged if there were some pro-military terrorist group that would be enraged if they criticized U.S. foreign policy and if they were told that they have a duty to stop doing so in order to avoid the anger of this terrorist group. And so on. Many actions that are not necessary in any given case should nonetheless be done by someone at some time or other, and if we submit to a rule that allows bullies to veto the acts in each individual case, we will stifle our freedom, our civic health, and our country's character altogether by the application of the rule.

Apropos of which, the Acts 17 missionaries go on trial tomorrow in Dearborn. The judge did not dismiss the charges, not even against Negeen Mayel who was merely videotaping from a distance. It appears that the trial will partly turn on the testimony of one Roger Williams; I imagine the lawyers for Acts 17 are eagerly anticipating cross-questioning him. As readers of W4 know, the Acts 17 missionaries committed the provocative and unnecessary act of discussing the deity of Jesus Christ with Muslims on videotape during an Arab festival.

What else is American Conservatism?

With no pretense to so balanced, searching and profound an essay as which my illustrious colleague Maximos has produced here, nor nearly so elegant an appreciation as my friend Bill Luse has produced here; with only a thought toward fruitful conversation by provocation, I want to ask a second question.

What else is American Conservatism?

Continue reading "What else is American Conservatism?" »

September 20, 2010

Art and meta-art


A further meditation (meta-meditation?) on modern art, music, and culture.

September 22, 2010

British Muslims Greet Pope Benedict XVI

More love from our friends at the "Muslims Against Crusades" website.

Inglorious Bastards

I have a Vision of The Future, chum,
The worker's flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
"No Right! No wrong! All's perfect, evermore."

The indefatigable Robert Rector draws attention to the ongoing disaster created by the de-stigmatization of bastardy and the state subsidization of illegitimate children:

Continue reading "Inglorious Bastards" »

September 24, 2010


I realize that pointing out liberal hypocrisy is like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes I just can't resist. Here's one that keeps bugging me more and more apropos of the post below by my esteemed colleague Jeff Culbreath:

The supposed rationale for laws in Europe against "incitement to hatred" (under which six men were arrested recently in Northumbria) is that incitement to hatred is next door to incitement to violence. One of our leftist commentators has suggested that burning a Koran in the U.S. might be legitimately deemed illegal, First Amendment or no, on the grounds that it constitutes "incitement." And the notion of a tacit threat may be the rationale used for the arrest of a man in Michigan who burned a Koran and left it on the steps of a mosque.

In all of this there is a hyper-sensitivity toward acts that express a negative view of Islam or an insult to Islam that might be construed as threats or that might indirectly lead others to engage in violent behavior against the mascot group--in this case, Muslims. (By the same hypersensitive logic the Left wanted James Dobson's head for expressing the traditional moral view of homosexual acts on the grounds that he was responsible, somehow, for the death of Matthew Shepard.)

But in the UK itself Muslims can line the streets literally screaming threats against the Pope as he drives by and no one gets arrested.

If we say that direct incitement to violent acts, directly calling for such acts, and uttering threats against identifiable people should be illegal--a view not only endorsed by common sense but also completely compatible with even a strong interpretation of First Amendment rights--then this Muslim "demonstration" should be illegal even in the United States. But how much the more should such directly and blatantly threatening behavior be illegal in the UK where supposedly the laws show such tremendous concern for incitement to hatred as ostensibly an indirect form of incitement to violence?

Anyone who cannot see that the left works together with Islam is simply blind. It may be that sometimes the left works with Islam out of fear. At other times the cooperation may be calculated. But the cooperation is real. And this double standard is just one small indication thereof.

I'm Catholic, you're Catholic

Is there any limit to which the use of the word ‘Catholic’ with a capital C, used as either adjective or noun, might be put in the attempt to convey respectability upon its bearer? Can just any one person or organization haul it into service? With a little tweaking, I can fit certain disparate Catholics, like Culbreath and Liccione, into my understanding of the word. (Relax guys, just kidding. Probably.) But can Catholics for a Free Choice and Catholics United for the Faith both fairly stake a claim? ZippyCatholic and Vox Nova? (Not kidding). Is Richard McBrien really a continuation of the same theology of the same Church to which Cardinal Manning won so many converts, while both men are tagged with the same religious label? Is the Catholicism of Henry Hyde (rip) and that of John Kerry one and the same thing? If so, why did their respective consciences dictate such different actions in the political sphere regarding the defense of the unborn, such that one man's actions amounted to no defense at all?

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September 25, 2010

Verdicts in Dearborn [Updated]

An almost-complete victory in criminal court for the Acts 17 missionaries: All were acquitted of all charges except for the one person most removed from the whole situation, Negeen Mayel, who was found guilty of "failure to obey the lawful order of a police officer"--the order in question apparently being to stop videotaping. Negeen was sentenced to the one night she already served in jail, and the judge told the missionaries, "You are welcome in Dearborn." (Ahem. Looks like it, doesn't it?)

The Thomas More Law Center is appealing the verdict in the one charge against Negeen. I assume that appeal will turn on the interpretation and application of the law in question.

My concern at this point is lest things become too narrowly focused on that issue and that appeal. In my non-lawyer's opinion, a suit should be filed now based on the obvious conspiracy of the police to engage in false arrest. The arbitrary command to Negeen to stop videotaping was part of the overall situation in which the police intended to arrest the other missionaries on charges based on fraudulent testimony.

Moreover, the witness Roger Williams should also be sued for his defamation against the Acts 17 missionaries which started this entire scenario.

More on laws against "failure to obey an officer" below the fold.

Continue reading "Verdicts in Dearborn [Updated]" »

Pastor Joshua has passed away

I just found out the end of this story and am posting it here solely as a news item for those interested, which is why I have turned off comments.

Joshua, the Sri Lankan pastor I discussed here, passed away on September 6, but thanks to the work of Alex Schadenberg and the Canadian Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, he was allowed to receive food and fluids by mouth for some days before his death, so he did not die entirely without that help and comfort from his devoted friends. The timeline seems to be this: He went eleven days, until August 28, without food or fluids of any kind. Having survived that ordeal, he was finally allowed in a "deal" with the doctors and his SDM to be fed by mouth by a nurse who was also a friend. For some days (I don't know how many) she was able to do this, until he became genuinely unable to eat by mouth. He then passed away on September 6; of course, no feeding tube was permitted.

It is a crying scandal that a patient who was capable of receiving oral nutrition and hydration should have gone through eleven days with nothing. There is nothing remotely "natural" about this. I have spoken repeatedly, in blog comments and in posts, about the danger that doctors refuse to allow even mouth feeding to patients able to receive it.

It seems quite plausible that Joshua's eleven days of total dehydration contributed to his eventual death. Anyone would be greatly weakened and many would already have been dead by that time. And of course there was no reason why he could not have been given a feeding tube after he could not take food and fluids by mouth anymore.

Nevertheless, we should be thankful both to God and to those who worked so hard for Pastor Joshua that he was able to receive some food and fluids during his last days and that his friends did not have to watch him die without being allowed to help at all.

I strongly urge all of you who see the danger of this to write a living will that makes it absolutely clear that you want to receive nutrition and hydration, by tube if necessary. I would even go so far as to urge that you not include an exception "if your death is imminent," as I have heard of one case in which a woman who had filled out a supposedly protective living will drafted by a right-to-life group was dehydrated to death over the standard period of time because that phrase was interpreted, perversely, to mean "if my death is imminent if I don't receive nutrition and hydration." I also suggest that you appoint someone with durable power of attorney for health care who fully shares your commitment to not dehydrating people to death and who will be your advocate should the need arise.

September 28, 2010

The illiberalism of liberalism

This will be only a short entry. Pro-lifers have been saying for a while that liberals' claim to be in favor of the little guy is belied by their support for things such as abortion and euthanasia for the disabled. Two recent posts have brought this point back to my mind. First, there is Jody Bottum's absolutely and justly scathing piece on Valerie Tarico's proud report of how she aborted a child that merely might have been disabled. I gather that if the child actually happened to be healthy, which we will now never know, he was just collateral damage in the all-justifying fight against the existence of the disabled. (HT Mike Liccione)

Then there is Wesley J. Smith's piece on the fact that liberals never recognize the true nature and trajectory of the euthanasia agenda. The latter may interest those few readers who are not as conservative as I am but who are sympathetic to the pro-life agenda in policy.

Twenty-five lashes

Grandad warned me gravely in the truck on the way over. He said that his neighbor, "Red", one of the retired officers with whom he worked at L.A.P.D., sometimes used very bad language, but that I was never to talk that way. My grandfather was a man of steel in many ways - an MP in the Second World War, twenty years of police work in Los Angeles, a U.S. Deputy Marshall, and finally a district court judge in northern California. He'd seen the very worst of humanity, and yet I don't ever remember him swearing. Perhaps he was used to watching his language around the grandchildren. He died in 1978, one of the last best men of the Old Republic.

Little did Grandad know, the language in my own home and school, in the films I watched and the books I read, was far worse than anything I ever heard from his neighbor.

Colonel Washington has observed that the men of his regiment are very profane and reprobate. He takes this opportunity to inform them of his great displeasure at such practices and assures them that if they do not leave them off, they shall be severely punished. The officers are desired, if they hear any man swear or make use of an oath or execration, to order the offender twenty-five lashes immediately, without court-martial. For the second offense, he will be more severely punished.

That's right, twenty-five lashes for swearing, without court-martial, under Colonel Washington's command. They say the past is another country, and that's certainly how it looks from here.

The ancients understood that there is great power in words, especially the spoken word. Much superstition developed around this power, but the power itself cannot be denied. For Christians, the Holy Name repels demons and opens the soul to the grace. Exorcists report that tormented spirits always spew the vilest obscenities before leaving their victims. There is power in words.

Western nominalism was, in part, an attempt to escape that power. Today, many use filthy and blasphemous language in defiance of that power, as if to prove that such power did not exist, though hardly anyone claims it does anymore. Rebellion continues long after the enemy is routed.

September 29, 2010

The U.S. military vs. Christian missions

I only recently learned about this incident when it came out apropos of Terry Jones's proposal to burn the Koran. My spin, however, is a little different from the usual. Here's the story:

About a year and a half ago, the U.S. military became aware that (horror of horrors) a church in the U.S. had raised money to send Bibles in Afghani languages to one of its military members stationed in Afghanistan. Al Jazeera got hold of video in which the military fellow told people at a chapel service about how these Bibles had been sent to him by his church.

This was obviously an emergency situation. You see, he might have distributed those Bibles to Afghani people, which would be contrary to a hard and fast U.S. military rule against any "proselytizing" by U.S. troops.

In response to this terrible danger to U.S. troops (all together now, my liberal commentators, rise up and chant: "It could have endangered our troops in Afghanistan if the locals learned that proselytizing might be going on"), the military officials, in the person of the chaplain (!), drew the misguided Christian soldier aside, explained to him how horrible it was for him to have these Bibles and that they must be regarded as his trash, confiscated the Bibles, and then carefully burned this newly designated "trash." Whew! All that danger to our troops is now hopefully dispersed, at least if we made the burning known widely enough to those who might otherwise have rioted or tried to kill them. Our troops can rest easy at night again knowing that we've made it clear to the Muslims that we burned the Bibles, okay? Please don't attack us, okay?

The self-hating, missions-hating story just gets worse, however, in a sentence that wasn't widely publicized in any other posts that I saw. The CNN story says,

Military officers considered sending the Bibles back to the church, he said, but they worried the church would turn around and send them to another organization in Afghanistan -- giving the impression that they had been distributed by the U.S. government.

Continue reading "The U.S. military vs. Christian missions" »

September 30, 2010

What is classical theism?


Classical theism is the conception of God that has historically been the mainstream view within Christian, Jewish, and Islamic theology, and also within philosophical theology and philosophy of religion. It is the official and irreformable teaching of the Catholic Church. And it is very different from the conception of God that is taken for granted in most contemporary debate over “Intelligent Design” theory, the “New Atheism,” and the work of philosophers of religion like Plantinga and Swinburne. Anyone who rejects theism as such had therefore better know something about classical theism. And yet most contemporary atheist philosophers – including Keith Parsons, who recently made a big show of his abandonment of philosophy of religion as unworthy of any of his further attention – evince little if any awareness of what classical theism is or how it differs from other conceptions of God.

So what is classical theism? I provide a rough guide over at my own blog.

Joseph Sobran


Jack Fowler of NRO reports the passing of Joe Sobran - a brilliant, big-hearted, eccentric and somewhat unpredictable Catholic thinker. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Our former NR colleague, Joe Sobran, passed away today after a long battle with a variety of ailments. He was relatively young, just 64, and while physically beaten at the end, he also departed spiritually triumphant.

Surely, in short order, there will be ample reflection — much of it critical — on the hyper-talented, hyper-controversial writer. There will be a recounting of his history at NR, the break, the following years, and Joe’s soured relationship with WFB (happily, they rekindled their friendship before Bill passed away). Good, let’s discuss all that, and more. But later. Right now, let us, if only for a minute, pray for the repose of his soul, to hope: That he abides now with his old boss, and they together with our Creator. For the peace that proved so elusive in this lifetime, Joe, may you now have it.