Islam, Churchianity and the 1st Amendment

ISIS just executed 13 young boys for watching a soccer game, and they’ve been throwing homosexuals off tall buildings; Boko Haram murdered thousands just last week. And worst of all, these groups have done it all in the name of religion.
As a “religious” person I find that very difficult to wrap my brain around – how does a person worship a god who demands such atrocities? If we have to include such belief systems in our concept of religion, then how do we define that term?

The word religion comes into English through Old French – probably riding in the boat with William the Conqueror in 1066. It came into French from the Latin words religāre (to tie up) and ligāre, to bind. Very interesting – it’s oldest uses have nothing to do with God.

“To tie up; to bind” – sounds like slavery. But Christ said, “… the truth will set you free.” He didn’t say, “Let me bind you hand and foot.” His Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16) has to be considered good news and not repression.

According to Merriam-Webster religion means a body of beliefs and practices regarding the supernatural and the worship of one or more deities. That is, however, inadequate. Not all “religions” are centered on a deity. In 1961 in Torcaso vs. Watkins the Supreme Court justices pointed out that, “Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others. “ Even atheists are having “church” services these days. So I’m not sure that religion necessarily has anything to do with God or with gods  - exactly.

If we look at the world’s great “religions” we can see some commonalities:
•    ritual practices –anything from baptism to smoking ganga (marijuana) and dancing (Rastafarianism); from circumcision to pulling teeth.
•    prayer/meditation – conscious messages to a deity or a silencing of conscious thought through chanting of mantras, or ritualized prayer  -- memorized and oft-repeated or mechanized as in the Buddhist prayer wheels.
•    a concept of what happens to us after death – heaven/hell, reincarnation, nirvana, obliteration.
•    rules of conduct – often quite onerous, instituted with either the welfare of the follower or the welfare of the community in mind – sometimes with nothing other than the dissemination of the religion as a goal.
•    special holidays.
•    some sort of priesthood – imams, rabbis, shamans, gurus, prophets, witches, commissars-- even temple prostitutes.
•    sacred writings – the Bhagvad Gita, the Torah,, the Qur’an,  the Communist Manifesto,  Origin of the Species, etc.
•    worship of a deity, or deities – either supernatural or human.
•    we also see an effort on the part of the followers to appease or gain the approbation of the worshipped being. This involves anything from volunteering and social work to ritual human sacrifice (either in the form of cutting out the hearts of young virgins or the deaths of suicide bombers. Perhaps these sacrificial behaviors can give us some idea about how the Latin verb meaning “to bind” came to be associated with religion.)

We know that our founding fathers were not thinking about  beheading children or raping young girls when they recommended  “the free practice thereof.” The brilliant men who started this nation started it from a biblical perspective in a context of controversy among Christian sects, not a war between rival religions. Their only lack of foresight is in this area – they assumed everyone knew that their reference was to the Judeo-Christian background from which they came. The Puritans had no problem condemning witches or fighting the Barbary pirates, nor would they have condoned human sacrifice or ritual sex.  

But I digress. We need a clear, morally stable definition of this troublesome word. The Urban Dictionary (which is mainly a glossary of leftist talking points) states that religion -- The biggest lie in human history. It has been responsible for more deaths throughout human history than all other unnatural causes combined.

There may actually be some truth to that – but with two caveats:
•    that we include Satan worship and communism as examples of religion,
•    and that we differentiate between Christianity and Churchianity.

Here’s where we can gain some thinking traction. The West has been now for hundreds of years steeped in the moral traditions of both Christianity and Judaism – our moral compass points always to our true north – Moses’ Ten Commandments and Christ’s famous two. And we associate that moral compass with the book it comes from: the Bible, the Word of God, and therefore to what we’re used to calling religion. This is why it is so deeply disturbing when we’re faced with “religions” that recommend, demand brutality, dishonesty, murder and death.

Allow me to suggest that if we include Churchianity in the list of world religions we would not find the problem so bewildering. There must be some perverse human tendency – original sin, for lack of a better term – that twists every encounter with true divinity into some knock-off that we’re comfortable with.  We saw that happen as far back as Cain and Abel. Cain wanted his own version of religion – not the relationship Abel enjoyed with God; Cain wanted to do it his way.  

It took very little time for the gnostics to invade Christianity, a while longer for the hierarchy of Rome to enter the picture, and even the Reformation didn’t take Christianity back to its biblical basis. Wherever the Bible was ignored amongst Christians, the ugly parts of “religion” start growling. Christians, in spite of their “belief” in Christ, revert to Cain’s emphasis on his own accomplishments any chance we get. Churchianity has run inquisitions, burned people at the stake, abused Jews, started wars, made ritual the center of worship, made prayer into a mockery, and generally speaking, raised pan-handling to a high art. Churchianity is just like the other religions.

The fact is that Christianity – as presented to the people of Asia Minor by the disciples – is not a religion. It lacks most of the attributes of the other religions:
o    It only had one recommended ritual or ceremony– Communion – the up-date of the Jewish Passover, but it was to be celebrated whenever a group of Christians wanted.
o    The emphasis was on private, or semi-private, personal, relational communication with the first person of the Godhead, not so much on public recitation of memorized prayers.
o    Christianity, in its purest sense, has only two commandments, two rules of engagement. In Christ’s own words, ““‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 28:36-40)
o    No special holidays were required.
o    No priesthood was essential – the apostles had authority to write the New Testament and to train men to teach its precepts, but they mandated no other hierarchy..
o    Mainly, the emphasis was not on earning approbation from God. That was the “good news.” Christ paid the penalty for our sin and our belief in His sacrifice eliminated our need to scramble around trying to piece together our own ticket to heaven. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we think of religion as man’s ruthless climb toward whatever he wants to pretend is at the top, and include Churchianity in that group, then we can look clearly at Christianity, and not only find new appreciation for all that it originally was, but we can also, without confusion, roundly denounce the actions and motivations of Islam, and get on with the business of stopping it.



Multiculturalism and the Myth of Compromise

For the last few decades, Western civilization has been attempting to avoid the difficult levels of thought – analysis, synthesis, and most of all, evaluation. No one wants to be the one to point a finger and say, “That’s just wrong.” For one thing, as we learned from Charlie Hebdo, doing so can get you killed. But we also know that repercussions can take other forms as well – job loss, lawsuits, public ridicule, and personal rejection (I don’t have as many friends as I used to). We have been basking in the luxury of sloppy, pseudo-intellectual mock thinking and it may cost us everything. The horrors of 9/11, the Boston bombing, the Fort Hood shooting, and the Paris massacre demand that civilized people adjust their thinking about two closely related ideas: multiculturalism and compromise.

As a long-time veteran of public schools I can speak to the influence of multiculturalism in our education systems. It appears to be the result of our attempt to rid the public square of Christian influence and replace it with a purely human credo; rather than teach students to discern good from bad in the biblical sense, we’ve taken the easy road and decided to go with “tolerance” also known as “multiculturalism.” If nothing is truly bad, then we can all skip down the road together, holding hands and singing People of the World. No judgment, no shame; no shame, no retaliation; no retaliation, no war. That’s the dream.

That works just fine as long as the cultures we have to deal with are not noticeably different from our own. Western societies, steeped for so many centuries in the Christian worldview, can live side-by-side without the necessity for repudiation, but throw in a mindset that has rejected biblical justice since Isaac and Ishmael,  Jacob and Esau, and we have a different challenge: if we don’t wake from this Prozac-laced, guilt-ridden haze and realize that not all cultures can be safely welcomed, we will lose it all.

I once had a college professor who said repeatedly, “Culture is just one group’s way of getting to the waterhole, “ and there’s a certain truth to that, but what my professor didn’t acknowledge is that not all cultures make it to the waterhole, and  some get to the waterhole by hitching a ride on the backs of those who already have created a clear path, and then opening fire on them. That’s what happened in Paris last week.

There’s little point in going to the “most Muslims are good” argument; it’s irrelevant. Most Germans were good, as well, but that didn’t help the Jews. Perhaps the radical jihadists are just aberrations of the likes of Torquemada – nevertheless, they exist and they can’t be dealt with if the West continues to swallow its morality like a piece of gristle and welcome these hideous people with open arms. Shortly after 9/11, during a discussion with an honors English class, my students – every one of them – insisted that the 19 terrorists responsible for the attack were not guilty of anything awful because they were just following their beliefs. It made me furious, but not with the kids; it made me furious with my colleagues who taught them such drivel, taught them to bow to the god of multiculturalism, regardless of the human sacrifice he demanded.

The sister of this sloppy thinking is “compromise.” That’s the recommended method for dealing with the inevitable conflicts between cultures; it is the chief doctrine of liberalism, but it doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means, and it has invaded areas where it has no business being.

The concept of compromise is not, and should not be, applicable to moral issues. For one thing, the logical Law of the Excluded Middle prohibits such a thing – it is either right or wrong to murder a child; such a thing cannot be compromised on; there is no middle ground here on which to stand. What would a compromise on that issue even look like? It’s okay to kill a kid but only on alternate Wednesdays? It’s okay to murder little Johnny if he is deemed by his parents to be substandard, or if his existence is inconvenient?

Can we compromise on issues like the national debt? It’s good to yoke our children to the oxen of perpetual obligation if – if – what? What can possibly mitigate that wrong? Can we compromise on health care? Is it copacetic to deny the elderly care so those younger can have it cheaper? Is that morally acceptable? No, of course not, but that’s the deal the Democrat Congress passed and the president signed. Can we compromise with terrorists? According to Hillary we must respect their views – how do we respect female genital mutilation? How do we pretend that they aren’t beheading children, raping little girls, or crucifying Christians, committing atrocities that society hasn’t seen for hundreds of years? How do we compromise on that? Limit the numbers they torture per month?

On the other hand, we can easily compromise, and should be willing to do so, on non-moral issues. I want a blue chair, but my husband wants red, so we agree to buy the red and blue striped Lazy-Boy. That’s an acceptable compromise.  John wants to go to the races, Mary wants to go to the ballet, so they compromise – she goes with him to watch cars whiz around in circles and later that night they both dress up and watch people hop around a stage in toe shoes. No moral issue there, either.

For one thing, compromise requires trust. I couldn’t negotiate with my husband about the living room chair if I didn’t trust that he would order the chair we agreed upon. Mary couldn’t consent to go to the races unless she was sure that John would follow through and take her to the ballet. So if we transfer this idea to politics or foreign policy, there’s going to be a problem.

So, of course we shouldn’t compromise with those who say clearly and loudly that they want to kill us, or with those whose “moral” code clearly gives them permission to lie. Can we turn a blind, oh-so-tolerant eye to the heinous crimes committed by these people? Can we say, like my students, “Oh, they’re just following their religion,” and cave to whatever demands they make in the name of compromise?

And we have been caving to their demands: we are teaching our public school students about all the blessings of Islam, allowing special prayer time for Muslim students in public schools where the Christian kids are not allowed to openly pray. We are altering school menus so as not to offend the 1% of students who don’t want to be in the presence of pork. (We’ve never done that for our Jewish students, but then they never threatened reprisals if we didn’t.) We have allowed this president to pack his administration with Muslims – as compromise? as a bow to multiculturalism? Or, perish the thought, under that guise committing a form of treason.

The trouble with the myths of multiculturalism (or political correctness) and compromise is that they are as shape-shifting and shadowy as a ghost, as duplicitous and sneaky as a thief, and as vicious and unmerciful as the Assyrian hordes. America will rue the day she invited them in – unless we take a deep breath, screw up all our courage and send the both of them packing.



Dianne Feinstein, the Iron Maiden

Okay – now I’m really mad. And what’s worse, I’m mad on two fronts. For one thing I don’t like people messing with my language, and for another, I don’t like people messing with the people who do the hard and dirty work of keeping us safe.

Dianne Feinstein’s release of the enhanced interrogation technique documents is, on both national and linguistic fronts, an act of treason. To attack the language by which we carry on our national dialogue and the methods we use to protect our right to have a national dialogue is unforgivable.

Let’s look at the language piece of this first.

Torture is a concept way out on the edges of cruelty and evil. It is not merely making a person uncomfortable. Torture causes screaming, mind-destroying agony.  It is not merely scaring or even terrifying a person. It is not humiliation, nor is it mere confinement. Nor is it the same as irritation, or annoyance, or frustration. It’s not merely causing distress or anxiety. Torture leaves physical scars – twisted limbs, missing fingernails, missing fingers, toes, eyes, tongues. It drives people permanently mad. To torture is to cause maximum pain while still keeping the victim alive, and has been used throughout human history to extract information, to effect revenge, to punish in such a way as to scare others out of committing the same crime – Braveheart comes to mind.

To think that pouring water on a prisoner reaches that level is to demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about what man is capable of doing to his fellow man. It is ignorance of history. When the CIA water boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed they followed strict guidelines allowing breaks every few seconds; they had doctors and minders and interpreters in the room with him. There were strict limits. With torture there are no limits. Allow me to elaborate:

In the Middle Ages torturers liked to place men in coffin-shaped cages – if possible cages really too small for the man’s size. They’d hang the cage outdoors and leave the victim there until he rotted. The French liked to arrive at the same end by using the oubliette – a narrow, deep dungeon into which they’d lower their victim, and forget about him – hence the name oubliette from oublier, to forget. Those in power abused their power by letting their evil imaginations run rampant. The iron maiden – horrible name – imprisoned a man in its hollow interior – an interior filled with iron spikes. As the inquisitor fired questions, he’d push on the door, driving the spikes ever deeper into the victim.

The rack was the staple of the Spanish Inquisition – an inquisition not done to protect Spain from an enemy, but done to force citizens to relinquish their beliefs or to accuse their neighbors. The rack stretched a man, his arms and legs attached to cranks that the tormentors turned, slowly, agonizingly pulling a man apart.

The current fuss about tummy-slapping and sleep deprivation not only shows ignorance, but a naive assumption, a Darwinian assumption, that man is getting better and better, so much so that even playing loud music is too terrible to consider. After all, that other grisly stuff happened in the distant past -- those who don’t study history tend to lump all of the past together, but note that those practices were common only five or six centuries ago.

In times before that people were also doing horrible things to each other. Boiling captives in oil, impaling them, carefully pushing the stake between organs so as to keep the victim alive longer. The Assyrians enjoyed skinning their prisoners alive. They did this as a contest to see who could keep his victim screaming the longest. Perhaps entertainment should also be added to torture’s list of purposes.

And any discussion of torture has to include crucifixion, which did much the same thing as the rack, adding to the excruciating (a word derived from the word crucifixion) pain, slow asphyxiation. If the asphyxiation took too long the Romans would break the legs of the prisoner to hasten that process.

Well, this proves that mankind has learned to be kinder. I’m sure they give out Boy Scout badges for getting all bent out of shape about making people stand in front of a wall; the Age of Aquarius must be just around the corner.

No. Not. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and their ilk have driven a stake through that nonsense. Syria alone, just since the beginning of the uprising 2011, has tortured to death an estimated 55,000 people. They specialize in using a technique called the flying carpet which involves tying a person, face down, to a hinged board and gradually bending the board, compressing the spine and eventually breaking it. They also like to handcuff a prisoner’s wrists behind his back and hang him, by his wrists, from the ceiling -- another variation on the rack.

Torture – real, debilitating, crazy-making, excruciating torture is still being done today by societies anxious to do those things to us. We have built systems and hired people to protect us from such monsters, and that job is ugly and requires them to rub elbows with evil, demands that they work in uncomfortable, dangerous places, and obligates them to make dreadful decisions, to look the wicked realities of human nature right in its jaundiced eye. Very few of us are willing to do that.

That doesn’t mean that the enemy tortures so it’s OK for us to do so. It does mean that we will have to get rough – just rough enough – to get these cowards to talk. Not rough enough to use as a scare tactic. Not rough enough to entertain anyone, but rough enough to find out ahead of time what these jackals are up to.

Liberal fantasies notwithstanding, man has not evolved into a pussycat – not by a long shot. Many Americans have, however, become so removed from reality that they think they can just call things by different names and thereby change what-is into what-ought-to-be. They, like one of Dickens’ characters who couldn’t “look on anything that wasn’t perfectly prim, proper, and pleasant,” want to just ignore the terrifying realties of war. Even our president doesn’t want to call our efforts to stop Islamic militants “war.” He doesn’t even want to call them “Islamists.” But they are Muslims and we are fighting for our national existence. But they’ll like us better if we stop keeping them up at night, if we give them prayer rugs and home-style cooking, volleyball courts and Korans. They’ll like us even better now that we’ve come clean about how we treat “detainees.”

In what lopsided, topsy-turvy world would that work? Not in this one. In this world the Islamists will use this CIA document as a training manual. They’ll probably use it as a joke book. We will no longer know what they’re planning, no longer be able to prevent attacks. Feinstein, by releasing this document, has given aide and comfort to the enemy and has put every one of the brave and dedicated men and women who protect us in danger. It has flipped on a spotlight that’s aimed right at them.

And who wants to protect a country that will turn on you the way the Democrats have done here? Our intelligence officers, regardless of which agency, must be free to act quickly, dispassionately, decisively and do so without any hyper-prissy hesitation – to protect themselves and to protect us.

Nothing is more unattractive than superior uber fastidious self-righteousness, especially when you stack it up against self-less devotion to duty and nation that we find in our military and investigative institutions. I am furious at what this vindictive, traitorous woman has done to us all. To use a word wrongly, to fill it with baggage it was not meant to carry, to debase the only way we have to make sense of this world is the worst crime of all.