It’s On

What John Lennon poetically wished for, an end of biblical religion, the progressives will now openly declare. The platform they are nearly at, and will be at soon, is to remove all tax breaks, and to criminalize all non-private religious expression and practice on the basis of debased “public-reason test” thinking. It’s on.

Carl Eric Scott
via ‘Your Frame Is Too Small’
Rod Dreher
The American Conservative
April 30, 2015

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The Story We’re Forgetting in Garland

Jihadists More Repulsive than Pam Geller | Commentary Magazine.

Pam Geller and her tactics sicken me.

However, Peter Wehner has a cogent point underneath this provocative headline: we have somehow forgotten (or ignored) the fact that this was a terrorist attack on homeland soil. Yes, Geller made herself, her guests, and the people protecting them huge targets.

While we quite correctly condemn Ms. Geller as a McCarthyite hate-monger, why are we not outraged that there appear to be armed Islamists wandering free in America looking for something juicy to attack?

RFRA: Not Like Jim Crow Laws at All

RFRA: Not Like Jim Crow Laws at All.

Jonah Goldberg provides a lesson in false equivalence. I am still on the fence about the RFRA: there are reasonable arguments about “slippery slopes” on both sides. Now that Indiana seems to have watered-down the vintage significantly, one hopes that we can all take a break and think through the issue of ourselves, rather than allowing the highly-exercised pontificators on both sides lead the day.

Part of that process, I believe, is reading and understanding the calm, reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue. You may not agree with Jonah Goldberg’s take on the RFRA, but you must appreciate the fact that employing fallacies in defense of your argument only winds up undermining your argument among those who either disagree or who have yet to be convinced. Worse, you are engaging in the worst kind of demagoguery.

Let us have a good debate in this country about religious freedom. But let us not employ fallacy or hyperbole on either side.

The Netanyahu Speech: Protocol is a Diversion

So here, again, are the facts: John Boehner invited Bibi to speak on an issue of national importance to both the United States and to Israel, and Bibi accepted. The White House was informed of the invitation in advance, as is proper. Democrats were not consulted. Tzipi Livni, Buji Herzog, Jonathan Greenblatt, and the editorial board of the New York Times were not consulted either. This is all according to custom and according to precedent. Any other reading of this story is a violation of protocol.

The True Rift Between Netanyahu and Obama Is About Policy, Not Politesse
Liel Leibovitz
Tablet Magazine
F
ebruary 12, 2015

Leibovitz and I share a deep discomfort with Netanyahu, and in matters of policy do not usually count ourselves among Bibi’s defenders.

But this meme that somehow the White House was “snubbed” in this process, or that inviting the Israeli Prime Minister to speak to Congress (and his acceptance of that invitation) was a violation of protocol is factually incorrect. Liebovitz explains why, and in great detail.

And this is vital. If what Liebovitz says is true, than one could conclude that the White House and/or its allies are inflating this non-issue as a means of distracting from the real matter at hand: the administration’s policy toward Iran.

The Administration seeks to pursue a relatively novel policy toward Iran and its ability to manufacture nuclear arms. The Administration appears to be of the opinion that “normalized” relations with Iran are of such value that it is worth allowing an unstable theocracy that pours its national treasure into non-state actors who are destabilizing the region and terrorizing the world to become a nuclear power.  That approach is at odds with decades of US policy.

Congress has an advise and consent role in the conduct of foreign policy. Liebovitz points out that Netanyahu, representing the one nation on earth most threatened by an Iranian bomb, has a point of view on the matter that is worth considering as Congress takes on its lawful role as overseer of foreign policy. Given that “March 24 is the deadline for the framework agreement in the coming negotiations with Iran,” the timing for the Prime Minister to air his concerns and for Congress to debate their veracity and their relevance to US foreign policy is entirely appropriate.

I have been against the idea of this speech, and not because I am concerned about protocol. Rather, I am concerned about how Bibi’s speaking gives ammunition to those who believe, as does John Mearsheimer, that American policy toward Israel is driven by AIPAC and the desire to court what is anachronistically referred to as “the Jewish Vote.”

I retain those concerns. The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House tread on extraordinarily thin ice with America here. No foreign power should ever be allowed undue influence over American policy, and no special interest group (even my own) should be able to compel the government to conduct a policy inconsistent with the principles and broader interests of the American people.

The Prime Minister must use his time to make a policy case, not a political one. He must lay out what is at stake, why Israel is so threatened by Iranian Plutonium, and why the end of an American policy that has shielded Israel from harm must send Israel on a pathway that diverges from that of the Administration.

This may be the most important speech of Netanyahu’s career. Not because his political fortunes at home are at stake, but because the future of Israel’s relationship with America is in the balance.

Enough of the caterwauling: let the man speak his piece. And may he speak it well.

Not the Pastor-in-Chief

The Heretic Hunters of Liberal Christianity
Rod Dreher
The American Conservative
February 12, 2015

Rod Dreher neatly sums up the real problem with Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech.

I think Obama was historically ignorant and politically ill-advised to bring the Crusades into the discussion, for reasons we have discussed in this space (in short, because the historical phenomenon is far too complex to be shoehorned into a neat, politically useful narrative). Nevertheless, he was certainly right to say that no religion has a monopoly on virtue or vice, and to call for all of us to be more humble and loving. What’s most interesting about his speech, though, is how he assumes that his watery, secular-ish liberal take on religion (both Christian and otherwise) is the authentic religious stance.

How do we know who is “misusing His name,” and who is being true to their faith? How do we know that faith is being “perverted and distorted”? By whose standards? When we say that “no God condones terror,” what does that mean to the jihadist who believes in all sincerity that he is not engaged in terror, but is simply being obedient to his god?

The temptation to pontificate on faith is a powerful one for US leaders of all political stripes. What we must ask is how far we want our elected officials to go when addressing issues of faith. As a matter of principle, I don’t want to hear my rabbi discussing politics or my President (or elected representatives) taking on questions of theology. The only thing I want from my elected officials vis-a-vis religion is their ardent defense of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Islam is, and should not be, a matter of political debate in this country beyond the effort to ensure that Muslims in America enjoy the full rights of their residency and citizenship alongside Atheists, Buddhists, Christians, Druids, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Islamism, to the extent that it is a destructive and deadly political force, is another story altogether, as should be any group of violent extremists that shroud their hate-filled politics in a mantle of faith.

And the Prayer Breakfast, an annual occasion that seems from the outside to have become more of an excuse for political sanctimony rather than humble reflection, may well have outlived its usefulness.

The Social Agenda of the Left and the Morality Muzzle

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

via LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM? OMG! | The American Conservative.

There is a flag that needs to be set into the ground here: it should be possible for us as a society to have an honest debate about the morality of a sexual act without one side demonizing the other.

If we fail in that, we are not simply surrendering to political correctness. We are losing freedom of speech and freedom of religion all in one swoop, and thus losing what it means to be American.

Getting it Right with Jefferson on Religion

Jefferson and religious liberty: The father of freedom
Erasmus

The Economist
2 January 2015

It is not uncommon for those arguing a point on the nature of the church-state relationship in America to refer back to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who was instrumental in the formulation of that concept in an American context.

In this superb article, The Economist reminds all of us who would use Jefferson to support our particular view of religion in America to first have the intellectual honesty to read all of what he wrote on the subject without looking for points of agreement. We should instead take what he wrote for face value, and then decide what it means.

I spent my 50th birthday at Monticello, and have a growing stack of Jeffersonia in my reading pile. As The Economist notes, Jefferson’s beliefs on the topic were complex and evolved throughout his life. We would do well to respect – and understand – the nuances of his thinking.

Oh, and add Doubting Thomas: The Religious Life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson to your Bull Moose reading list.