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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Why Support National Public Radio?

A reader’s opinion (with which I agree).

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My friend Emil Pavone recently received an email urging that he sign a petition to support PBS, NPR, and the National Endowment for the Arts.  That email and his response follow.

But first, a couple of observations. 

Number one is that, according to TruthOrFiction.com, the email is a hoax.  NPR denies that Nina Tottenberg made the alleged statement, speculating that it was spread by college students “testing the power of the internet.”

That in no way negates Mr. Pavone’s response.

Number two is that Nina Tottenberg is a fairly typical NPR news reporter.  It was she who, in a collaborative effort with feminist organizations, unearthed Anita Hill and coached her for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas.  Tottenberg’s intention was to keep off the Federal judiciary anyone not favoring the form of legalized murder euphemistically known as abortion. 

Too often, such liberal-socialist political views dominate NPR and PBS.  The Federal government should not be using taxpayers’ money to support that sort of thing.

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Herewith is the apocryphal email. 

Subject: National Public Radio needs you…

On NPR’s Morning Edition, Nina Tottenberg said that if the Supreme Court supports Congress, it will, in effect, be the end of the National Public Radio (NPR), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) & the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). PBS, NPR and the arts are facing major cutbacks in funding.

In spite of the efforts of each station to reduce spending costs and streamline their services, some government officials believe that the funding currently going to these programs is too large a portion of funding for something which is seen as not worthwhile.

This is for anyone who thinks NPR/PBS is a worthwhile expenditure of $1.12/year of their taxes. The only way that our representatives can be aware of the base of support for PBS and funding for these types of programs is by making our voices heard.

Please add your name to this list and forward it to friends! who believe in what this stands for. This list will be forwarded to the President and the Vice President of the United States. This petition is being passed around the Internet. Please add your name to it so that funding can be maintained for NPR, PBS, & the NEA.

Judith Ruderman
Vice Provost for Academic and Administrative Services
Duke University

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Mr. Pavone’s response:

You asked that I add my name to a petition seeking government support for National Public Radio.

As a lifelong fan of classical music, the first thing I did on renting an automobile in whatever market my work took me to, was set the car radio to the local public radio station. ?Upon returning home, I usually sent a small contribution to each such station as a way of saying thanks. ?

That was then. ?Now is now.

I still listen to public radio wherever I am because I know I?ll usually find a steady supply of good classical music. ?Here in St. Petersburg my radio is almost always tuned to 89.7FM and, when I?m at my computer, I usually have the station streaming in over the Internet.

But I don?t contribute to the station, nor to any other public radio or television station.

I began to think critically about the value of such stations as I heard and saw them, over a period of years, become more and more vociferous and extreme regarding political and moral matters. ?I asked myself why scarce broadcast frequencies should be allocated to these out-of-the-mainstream propagandists, and why public tax dollars should be devoted to their support. ?After considerable reflection, I concluded that continuance of these stations cannot be justified at this point in time.

As things stand, these stations operate in tax-exempt competition to commercial broadcasters, which might be justified if no one else would offer their product, i.e., classical music, in-depth domestic and foreign news, history, science, artistic drama and comedy, etc. ?But there is no doubt in my mind that all these things would be offered by commercial broadcasters if they weren?t forced to compete with tax exempt, tax subsidized outlets. ?

When we first considered moving to the Tampa Bay area, I was enthusiastic about the fact that there were two classical music stations broadcasting here; the public radio station and a commercial station. ?Obviously, the commercial broadcaster couldn?t succeed against a tax-exempt competitor, and they were forced to drop the format. ?I?m convinced that a free market would find stations covering all of the niches now defaulting to public radio. ?Note what?s happened in television, as the plethora of cable choices has led to broadcasting in every conceivable genre, and the more conservative approach at Fox has resulted in liberal outlets like CNBC scheduling conservatives like Joe Scarborough. ?

Commercial competition is a beneficial mechanism. ?The existence of tax-exempt, tax-subsidized broadcasters damages that mechanism.

For the reasons above-cited, and with all due respect, I won?t be adding my name to the petition seeking continued support of National Public Radio.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Encouraging Moves by Islamic Spokesmen

Keep praying that God will soften the hearts of jihadists.

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The Washington Times today carries an article titled Moderate Muslims celebrate public rebuke of bin Laden.

The article commences:  “The condemnation of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda by the Islamic Commission of Spain on the first anniversary of the train bombings in Madrid that took 200 lives is making waves throughout the Muslim world.

The Spanish commission’s fatwa, or condemnation, follows other signs of the kind of public theological debate rarely seen in the Muslim world, openly challenging the dominance of Saudi Arabia’s wealthy Wahhabi fanatics.

One Islamic scholar even calls it a sign of “a counter-jihad.”

In a recent interview with the Qatari daily newspaper Al-Raya, for example, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, the former dean of Shariah and law at the University of Qatar, urged his fellow Muslims to purge their heritage of fanaticism and adopt “new civilized humane thought.”

Such humane thought, he said, “must be translated [into deeds] in educational ways, via the media, tolerant religious discourse, nondiscriminatory policy and just legislation.”

“We must purge the school curricula of all sectarian implications and elements according to which others deviate from the righteous path and the truth is in our hands alone. We must enrich the curricula with the values of tolerance and acceptance of the other who is different [in school of faith, ethnic group, religion, nationality or sex].

“The political regime must refrain from sectarian or ethnic preference; it must respect the rights and liberties of the minorities and must guarantee them through legislative action, practical policy and equal opportunity in the areas of education, media and civil positions.”

*****

It is hardly surprising that the usual suspects in the Islamic world vociferously denounce such calls for moderation.  Without the hatred essential to jihad, such people would lose all meaning in the Islamic world. 

Since 9/11/01, we have been urged to consider several different ways to deal with this hatred.

One of them can be dismissed out of hand. 

It strikes me as nonsense to take the liberal-socialist view that there would be no jihad but for the unequal distribution of property between the Western world and Islam.  This is, of course, a materialistic doctrine in the Marxian socialistic sense:  humans are said to have no inherent, God-given natures, but are clay in the hands of the intellectuals.  The corollary is that, by changing the structure of the political state, i.e., by redistributing property, intellectuals can perfect human conduct and produce political states characterized by high economic productivity and social harmony.

This theory goes all the way back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the mid-1750s.  Results whenever it has been tried have been devastatingly horrible.  Start with the French Revolution and proceed through the bloody history of the Soviet Union, Mussolini’s Fascist state, Hitler’s National Socialism, Mao’s China, Castro’s Cuba, and the Sandinistas’ Nicaragua.  There is simply no magic in changing the names on property title deeds.  No matter what the theorists predict, human nature remains exactly as it has been described throughout the 7,000 years or so of recorded history.

History demonstrates clearly that giving in to unjustified demands of an aggressor merely emboldens him to demand more.

A second and related liberal-socialist prescription is “nuanced” foreign policy and “sensitivity,” evidenced in renouncing our right to self-defense and handing our foreign policy over to the UN.  We need not dwell at length on the abject failures of the League of Nations and of the UN to stop aggressors.  9/11 demonstrated that the UN was unwilling even to enforce its own mandates to Iraq.  The blood-money-for oil scandal makes clear that the “international community” so revered by liberals is more massively corrupt, at the cost of health and life of needy women and children, than any private corporation ever imagined being. 

What then can we do?

One part of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount clearly is applicable.  Jesus told the assembled thousands of listeners, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28).

How to interpret this admonition has occupied thinkers for two thousand years.  Out of their pondering emerged the just-war doctrine.  When an enemy like Al Queda announces its implacable hatred and its intention to annihilate us, then backs up the threat with the 9/11 attack, action must be taken to stop the threat.  Results to date in Iraq, elsewhere in the Middle East, and in Ukraine suggest that military force to demonstrate the vulnerability of jihadists and their lack of support among liberated Muslims has worked well.

That leaves us, still, with Christ’s admonition. 

My personal interpretation is that Jesus is saying that hatred begets hatred.  Rather than praying for the savage destruction of our enemies, we should pray that God will soften their hearts and lead them to prefer civilized ways to attain their goals.

The declarations of the Islamic Commission of Spain, recorded above, supports our faith that all things are possible with God’s love.

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Pope John Paul II: God’s Love vs. the European Union

I have been asked to write articles for Rubikkon (http://www.rubikkon.pl ), a Polish language website published in Poland, primarily for Polish students.  This is the first article submitted for publication.

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Like the Apostle Paul traveling throughout the Roman Empire to spread the Gospel, Pope John Paul II braved the persecution of socialistic secularism and traveled as no other Pope did to all parts of the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With personal bravery under Poland’s communist rulers and with doctrinal fortitude since becoming Pope, he has begun to turn the world back toward Eternal Truth.  He commanded no army and exerted no inside political influence.  Never fearing to speak the Truth, he has simply let his personal dedication to Jesus Christ shine like a great lamp that illuminated people’s inner lives and attracted them out of the dark.

Today the European Union wants to put out the light of Christian love by declaring Europe to be a bastion exclusively of secular materialism.

Why is this such a vital issue?

The short answer is that a secular Europe, faltering under the manifest inadequacies of socialism, will again fall victim to the demand for strong leadership.  Without the moral restraints of our Judeo-Christian heritage, those strong leaders again will feel free to implement collective state-planning concepts, no matter whose property must be confiscated or how many millions of people must be liquidated for the “good of humanity.”

Before the French Revolution of 1789, every law code in history was based upon natural law emanating from a god and from the age-old traditions of the society that worshipped that god.  All citizens could accept and respect such law codes.  Since the French Revolution, the law has become whatever the intellectuals arbitrarily decree, without regard to principles of morality. 

Great masses of humanity, expecting earthly perfection, have placed themselves in the hands of the intellectuals and their aparatchiks. Reality in every case has fallen far short of expectations.  In effect, secular socialism is a reversion to the pre-civilizational law of the jungle in which might makes right.  This is the State of Nature described by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 in which life becomes “nasty, brutish, and short.”

Intellectuals may sincerely believe that earthly perfection will be the result of their visions of planned economies and political states.  Instead the people get either the stifling regulatory controls of German and French bureaucracies, or the iron-handed rule of a Stalin.  At best, the effect on people’s energy, initiative, and creativity is enervating, and people escape as the Soviet workers did into alcoholism.  At worst, they live in terror under the totalitarian secular state.

The danger is becoming real again.  Another incident like the Muslims’ gruesome murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands could serve the same purpose as the burning of the Reichstag did in triggering popular support for Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party (the Nazis).

Under the withering embrace of socialism, both France and Germany are falling steadily behind the growth curve.  Unemployment in Germany is about as high as it was in 1933 when President von Hindenberg appointed Adolph Hitler to the Chancellorship.  French workers riot in the streets at the mere suggestion that they should work as many hours as everyone else.  The average age of Europeans is rising rapidly; fewer people are available to work, yet everyone is schooled to expect ever-increasing handouts from the secular political state.  The financial resources required by the socialistic welfare state, both in Europe and in the United States, simply will not be available in the future, when aggregate benefits entitlements will outstrip the dwindling productive capacity of the planned state.

Most Polish citizens who are forty years of age or older need no reminders of the oppression suffered under the secular religion of socialism.  Perhaps younger citizens, particularly students, need to be made fully aware of historical facts and of political consequences flowing from secular materialism.

Unlike the people of Poland, we in the United States never have had to endure the total hegemony of Big Brother as you did.  Heedlessly we have drifted, at an accelerating pace since the late 1960s, toward secularity in all forms, from hedonism to complete rejection of spiritual religion and personal morality. 

People in the United States speak about “American ideals,” but very few can identify those ideals.  Their simplistic definition usually is no more than declaring that Americans are free, because we can vote freely for our office holders.  We speak as if political liberty were no more than the mechanical procedures of using ballot boxes or voting machines. 

American students have been taught the falsehood that the British North American colonists undertook our 1776 War of Independence under the impulse of the same radicalism that propelled the French Revolution thirteen years later.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The only French Enlightenment (sic!) writer to exercise any influence at all in the deliberations of 1787 that produced our Constitution was Montesquieu.  His 1748 “Spirit of the Laws” compared various political systems and pronounced the British constitution the best available model.  It was Montesquieu who articulated the concept of separation of powers among the monarch and the two house of Parliament.  This idea became the basis of the American Constitution’s separation of powers among the semi-autonomous states that were the original colonies, the President, Congress, and the Federal judiciary.  Ours was to be a federal republic, not the all powerful, collective state which president Franklin Roosevelt created after 1933 (coincidentally the year of Hitler?s accession to power).

The Pope’s message is that the mechanics of political structure amount to nothing without the solid foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the personal responsibility and personal morality it teaches.  Thomas Jefferson said of his writing the American Declaration of Independence that it was not intended to express novel theories never before voiced, but rather to express the common understanding throughout the colonies of British North America.  Those ideas were based, he said, on the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God and upon such political texts as those of John Locke and Aristotle.  Though Jefferson was a Francophile, not even he looked to the French Revolutionary philosophers as guides for American political life.

Those understandings were gradually lost in the 20th century, and Americans have followed much of the Western world into the camp of Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity, which preaches that ideas of God and a higher law of timeless morality are unscientific ignorance, that the true object of human worship is an abstraction called Humanity.  Elite American universities teach students that the rational human mind is the creator of all that we survey and, therefore, that the final source of justice and truth is the minds of intellectuals.

The Constitution of the United States created a government of laws, not of men, a government of constitutionally limited powers.  Such a government can survive only when its citizens are self-restrained by religious morality.  One must balance the other.

John Adam’s expressed it best: “We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion.  Our constitution is made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Pope John Paul II’s testimony reminds us that the world inevitably will disintegrate into tyranny if people are not guided by religious faith and the love of God that leads each individual to think of helping others, not just himself.  Looking to the secular political state for social justice and dispensation of all goods and services as matters of entitlement is to be a slave of the political state.

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Monday, March 28, 2005

A Liberal Scourges the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Sparks flying in the clash between secularism and spiritual religion.

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Frank Rich’s opinion column, published today in the New York Times, leaves no room for ambiguity.  He is not favorably impressed by our Judeo-Christian heritage.

The God Racket, From DeMille to DeLay, unfortunately, is on the mark in skewering the hypocrisy that too often infects public professions of Christian morality.  Jesus denounced the Pharisees for their public shows of devotion, while their hearts had little room for expressing God’s love toward others.  However much Mr. Rich’s scornful language bites, he isn’t altogether wrong in his judgments.

His assessments go beyond legitimate criticism in painting a picture of Christianity as an aggressive and hypocritical religion.  Christianity certainly shouldn’t be as he describes it.  Speaking of the perennial TV showing of Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The Ten Commandments” in the Easter season, Mr. Rich writes:

“At a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma, the half-forgotten show business history of “The Ten Commandments” provides a telling back story….  it’s clear that one principle, so firmly upheld by DeMille, has remained inviolate no matter what the courts have to say: American moguls, snake-oil salesmen and politicians looking to score riches or power will stop at little if they feel it is in their interests to exploit God to achieve those ends. While sometimes God racketeers are guilty of the relatively minor sin of bad taste - witness the crucifixion-nail jewelry licensed by Mel Gibson - sometimes we get the demagoguery of Father Coughlin or the big-time cons of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

“The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille’s Hollywood crusades look like amateur night…... The president was not about to be outpreached by these saps. The same Mr. Bush who couldn’t be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.,” flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress’s Schiavo bill into law.”

If Mr. Rich is correct that Christian concern about morality has degenerated into nothing more than political and commercial hucksterism, then there is no hope for the future of the United States.

Mr. Rich complains self-righteously that Christians have been pressuring the media and the schools to soft-pedal secularity.  “... That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning “the E word,” evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor.”

We have seen abundant uses of political and legal force to push Judeo-Christian values out of public and educational life.  The few efforts by religious conservatives to which Mr. Rich alludes pale into insignificance compared to the systematic oppression of PC thought police in academia and liberal judges egged on by the ACLU.

Nonetheless, let’s not be guilty of descending to the level of militant liberal-socialist groups.  It’s up to us to remain faithful to what Jesus taught: Christianity is not to be spread to the world via the blunt instruments of political or judicial force, but via the loving benevolence of individuals who are trying to be lights of decent conduct that will attract non-believers.  While we must denounce secularity, we can do so in reasonable and factual terms.  The historical record abundantly demonstrates the fecklessness of liberal-socialism, without the need to resort, as Mr. Rich does, to the typical liberal ad hominem attack or retorting “so’s your old man.”

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday: Gnosticism vs God’s Love

Envelopment and transformation of spirit by God’s love is available to everyone as an individual; the way to truth and light is not through the minds of intellectuals controlling the collectivized political state.

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Good Friday is the symbolic commemoration of the day when Jesus Christ willingly assumed the burden of the world’s sins and died on the cross so that everyone believing in Him might have eternal salvation through the grace of God’s love. 

What does that mean in today’s super-charged clash of world cultures?

Larry Auster’s Conspiracy theories, gnosticism, and the crisis of our civilization gives us one perspective on the answer.  In that article, he writes:

“One of our participants refers to the “conspiratorial ‘insights’” of certain parties.  This is exactly right.  People who say things such as that the “capture” (in scare quotes) of Hussein was really not a capture but some kind of trick believe that they are seeing the real nature of things that the rest of us are too blind to see. That’s why beliefs like this are so immune to reason.  They are not simple mistakes that a person might make, and that might be corrected by further evidence.  They are revelatory (though actually blinding) insights into the hidden truth of the world.  In another recent post I called this kind of experience a false epiphany.

“By the way, much of anti-Semitism—namely the kind of anti-Semitism that sees the Jews as the secret cause of all the ills in the world—rests on such a false revelation.  But of course it’s not limited to anti-Semitism.

“The revelation of such hidden “knowledge” is called gnosticism.

“....Much of “conspiratorial” thinking follows the same basic pattern as the ancient gnosticism.  The person is profoundly dissatisfied with the world.  He cannot accept the fact of man’s fallen state or the imperfections of society.  So he starts to imagine that the fallen state of man or the bad state of society is due to some vast conspiratorial force that is controlling everything from behind the scenes—the Jews, the neoconservatives, the Masons.  If only we can identify and expose this force, we will become free of it and the world will be restored to its right order.”

“....Gnosticism, said [Eric] Voegelin, is a permanent temptation to the human psyche, but is especially deep-seated within Christian society because of the difficult-to-bear distance between God and fallen man that Christianity teaches.  Moreover, gnosticism flourishes in times of profound uncertainty.”

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Gnosis or gnosticism is a concept based on the Greek word meaning “to know.”  Gnosticism refers, not to a doctrine of genuine knowledge, but to various schools of mysterious, conspiratorial ideologies known only to a select group, whose duty is to impose their secret knowledge upon the world by subjugating or exterminating those who do not believe in their ideology. 

In diametric contrast, Christianity is open to every human being on earth, without regard to race, sex, ethnicity, or economic and social status.  Every individual is a child of God.  Every individual is entitled to respect and benevolence, because only God can see into his heart and judge him. 

Christians assuredly may disavow sinful actions and attitudes of individuals and the ideologies which teach and promote such actions and beliefs.  And Christians, as biological beings who must propagate the species, have the right to defend themselves with force against those who would destroy them.

But, when all is said and done, Christians have a duty to emulate Jesus Christ, not to curse their enemies, but to pray that God will soften the hearts of people who revile them.

Gnosticism has occurred repeatedly in world history.  We must therefore conclude that it is a reflection of deep-seated traits of human nature.  Gnosticism is a distorted religious conception that arose during the 7th century before Christ, when local political, social, and religious cultures were swept aside and replaced successively by the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great’s conquests, and the Roman Empire.  Culturally uprooted local populations sought answers to why their worlds had been overthrown.  Many groups found answers in the idea that conditions in the world ought not to be as they were and that bad times had come because of some evil, conspiratorial force.  The various gnostic groups claimed to have discovered secret knowledge identifying the source of evil and offering ritualistic or mystical religious ways to reorder the world.

Gnostic religions have persisted into our modern world in the guise of the various manifestations of secular and materialistic socialism, ranging from the French Revolution’s socialism, to Soviet communism and Hitler’s National Socialism, to the New Deal’s welfare state and today’s liberalism.  All of them reject the Christian faith that humanity’s highest and best state of being is to be found in individuals’ listening to the still, small voices of their consciences, the voice of God.  All of these gnostic ideologies place their faith in the belief that it is possible to make the world perfect, that the world ought to be perfect, and that they, the intellectuals, know how to accomplish it.

Eric Voegelin, my LSU mentor, addressed the persistence of gnosticism in “Science, Politics & Gnosticism,” based on his 1958 University of Heidelberg lecture.  He wrote:

“The more we come to know about the gnosis of antiquity, the more it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants of gnosticism…. The death of God is the cardinal issue of gnosis, both ancient and modern.  From Hegel to Nietzsche it is the great theme of gnostic speculation, and Protestant theology has been plagued by it ever since Hegel’s time.  In recent years, it has been taken up by American theologians who are faced with the pressing phenomena of urbanization and alienation.”

Conditions became even worse after 1958.  In the 1970s, pounded by student anarchism, anti-Vietnam War hysteria, riots, burning, and looting in cities, and the explosion of immorality under the impetus of the President Johnson’s Great Society entitlements socialism, many Christian churches abandoned Christianity.  Many urban ministers became supporters of paganism within the walls of their churches, opting for the flower-child spirituality of drugs and sexual promiscuity.  The impulse continues today, exemplified by the split within the Episcopal Church over ordaining as bishop a man who, while an Episcopal priest, abandoned his wife and two small children to enter a homosexual relationship, which continues even today. 

Professor Voegelin continues:

In the gnostic world view, he writes, “The world is no longer the well-ordered, the cosmos in which Hellenic man felt at home; nor is it the Judeo-Christian world that God created and found good.  Gnostic man no longer wishes to perceive in admiration the intrinsic order of the cosmos.  For him the world has become a prison from which he wants to escape…the aim always is destruction of the old world and passage to the new.  The instrument of salvation is gnosis itself - knowledge.”

Foreseeing the effect of American liberalism’s gnosis, Voegelin concludes:

“Self-salvation through knowledge has its own magic, and this magic is not harmless.  The structure of the order of being will not change because one finds it defective and runs away from it.  The attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world, but will only increase the disorder in society.”

American liberal-socialism is the direct descendant of the French Revolution and the bloody guillotine of its Reign of Terror, through the nightmares of Soviet Russia and National Socialist Germany. The gnosis, or self-delusion, of liberal-socialism leads its followers to the hubristic presumption that their own minds are the creators of all that they see and that, if they can conceive of a perfectly ordered world, then their minds can create it by restructuring society, and woe to him who stands in the way.

The gnosis of liberal-socialism is expressed in the assertion that the knowledge of intellectuals has surpassed the wisdom and power of God.  God and spiritual religion are dismissed as ignorance of a past age.  The mind of the intellectual becomes mankind’s savior. 

Liberals place their faith in a “progress” that has moved the world beyond the Christian faith that created and sustained Western civilization.  What results has not been pretty, nor has it left us better off. 

President Franklin Roosevelt announced that his “second bill of rights,” that is, security under the socialist welfare state, was to replace the original Bill of Rights and its basis in Judeo-Christian morality and reverence for God.  People were now to look to the political state for all blessings.  Implicitly, Big Brother had vanquished Jesus Christ.  Individual morality and personal responsibility no longer applied in a hedonistic and self-centered society in which Keynesian economics exhorted people not to save for the future, but to spend money now, to worship consumption of material goods.

On Good Friday, we must look back to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and look forward to a better life on earth and to eternal salvation through God’s love and Jesus’s commandment for us to love one another.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

An Easter Week Profession of Faith

Why I want to be a Christian.

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Western civilization, including the United States, came into existence only because of Christianity.  For details, see The Decline of Western Civilization: Explanatory Notes - Part Two.

Without true and revitalized Christianity, civilization will not survive today’s secularized culture.

As the news commentators say: full disclosure, I endeavor to be a Christian, a joyful pursuit at which I am not very good.  This does not mean that I reject the comradeship-in-arms of Judaism (and potentially even Islam).  After all, Christianity is a further revelation of God’s Truth emanating from Judaism.  As Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17).  It means simply that my faith is in Christianity as the fullest revelation of God’s Will, and that God’s Will is that each of us should love and serve others as he would want to be loved and served himself.

Judaism remains the covenant of the Jews; only Christianity carries to all the world the Bible’s Great Commandments, addressed to both Jews and Christians: Love the Lord thy God with all thy strength, heart, and mind; and love thy neighbor as thyself.

I admit that it is hard for me to reconcile Allah with the God of the Old and New Testaments.  If my understanding is correct, Mohammed’s Koran instructs Muslims to attack and pillage non-Islamic cities, and to slaughter the men and to sell the women and children into slavery.  In any case, for a thousand years after 622 AD, Muslims did precisely that, in the name of Allah conquering all of the old Christian cities of the Eastern Roman Empire, North Africa, and much of southern and central Europe.  The Koran, as interpreted by significant groups such as Al Queda, still commands Muslims to kill in every possible way non-Muslim men, women, and children.

Christians and Jews must hope and pray that ultimately this will prove to be the conviction of only a small part of the world’s millions of Muslims.  We must pray that God will soften all Muslims’ hearts, leading them to look upon Allah as a divine source, not of conquest, but of love and mercy.

If this website accomplishes anything at all, I hope it will be to turn people, especially students, away from the secularity of liberal-socialism and back into the path toward God’s Truth.  This will be, in effect, to give them the View From 1776, the understanding of our colonial forefathers that life’s highest aim is community based upon God’s love, community in which each person, as an individual, takes pleasure in helping other people in their times of need. 

This is what the New Testament’s Book of Matthew calls the kingdom of heaven in our everyday lives.  It is a vision of personal responsibility and benevolence that stands in diametric contrast to the liberal-socialist concept that individuals can not be relied upon to do the right thing or to help each other, that it is instead only the collectivized political state from which good comes.  (see Worship the Secular State Whence All Blessings Flow?)

Christianity deals with individuals and their individual needs.  Liberalism deals with social, economic, racial, and ethnic groups, reducing people to Social Security numbers and telling them what they must do with their savings and how they must live their daily lives in conformity to social justice as defined by so-called social scientists.

It is easier for me to think hopefully about softening the hearts of Muslims than of liberal-socialists.  Muslims are believers in a divine order instituted by God and an order therefore subject to timeless laws of morality, however different some of them are from Judaic and Christian standards.  But the secular religion of liberal-socialism vaunts itself on finding the truth only in the minds of its intellectuals.  For liberal-socialists, acknowledging God and the laws of nature would not be a softening of their hearts, but a complete disavowal of their very essence. 

There are, of course, many liberals who are perfectly nice people.  Nonetheless their allegiance is to the collective ideology of the political state.  Even those liberals who fancy themselves to be Christians or religious Jews are guilty of supporting an ideology that denies God.  Liberal-socialism rests upon the presumption that the human mind is greater than the Mind of God and can encompass, understand, and regulate all things and events.

History, however, demonstrates this to be dangerous lunacy.

As liberal icon Isaiah Berlin expressed it (“The Crooked Timber of Humanity: The Pursuit of an Ideal”), speaking of “... the great ideological storms that have altered the lives of virtually all mankind: the Russian Revolution and its aftermath - totalitarian tyrannies of both the right and the left and the explosions of nationalism, racism and, in places, of religious bigotry, which, interestingly enough, not one among the most perceptive social thinkers of the nineteenth century had ever predicted. ”  “... it is as well to realize that these great movements began with ideas in people’s heads; ideas about what relations between men have been, are, and might and should be; and to realize how they they came to be transformed in the name of a vision of some supreme goal in the minds of the leaders, above all the prophets with armies at their backs.  Such ideas are the substance of ethics.”

Such idea may be the substance of ethics as a socialist like Professor Berlin defines the term.  Such arbitrary, theoretical, and anti-historical ideas are certainly not the substance of ethics as the ancient Hebrews, Plato, Aristotle, and Jesus Christ understood the term.

Liberal-socialism stands ultimately for the maxim that might makes right.  Liberals, when push comes to shove, always have condoned the most savage, barbaric mass slaughter in the expectation that it would better humanity.  Liberals in the United States, for decades, defended Lenin’s and Stalin’s brutalities and liquidations of millions of Russians.  Liberals today proclaim that Iraquis were better off under Saddam Hussein’s murderous rule than under the turmoil leading to self-rule.  The end of the road for liberal-socialist “ethics” is Thomas Hobbes’s picture of the State of Nature, in which life is nasty, brutish, and short.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Gasoline Prices and the Free Marketplace

Adam Smith’s invisible hand still does the best job writing the economic script.

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In Forbes.com’s Jump Start, Rob Wherry reports:

“High natural-gas and oil prices, turmoil in the Middle East and increasing worries over power outages have sparked a renewed interest in funding clean energy, say the authors of a report released today.”

The still valid observation of the real world is that the free marketplace responds to economic needs, and it does so more effectively than liberal-socialist state-planners. 

What the Forbes article illustrates is that there is a huge, still untapped pool of energy sources around the world.  When petroleum prices rise to high enough levels, many new energy sources and techniques become economically feasible. Despite the gloomy predictions of environmentalists and other liberal-socialists, the world will not run out of energy sources.  If the market prices are high enough, it will always be feasible to produce energy from some source or other.

The typical liberal-socialist prescription - price controls and government subsidies - is entirely counter-productive.

Most people are unaware that the oil companies’ estimates of their producible reserves increase in tandem with increases in world oil prices.  It’s simply that, at low oil prices, reserves exist, but the costs to extract them are too high to make production profitable.  When prices rise to high enough levels, existing but high-production-cost reserves become producible reserves.

In Gasoline Prices and Short-sighted Liberals, I wrote:

“ANYTHING that ANY President does to control gasoline prices will be harmful to the economy.? Doing anything to fix prices at a lower level would just limit or reduce the available supply of gasoline.?

What our forebears understood in 1776 was that the public welfare is maximized when individuals are as free as possible to pursue their own goals, without arbitrary government interference.”

“...... We got into a similar situation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the inflationary effects of President Johnson?s Great Society explosion of entitlement benefits led to hyper-inflation.? President Nixon nearly wrecked the economy with price controls.? When price controls could no longer be maintained, prices shot up even faster.

That?s what happened when President Carter tried the same approach.? The result was hours-long waiting in lines at service stations, which often had no gasoline at all.? When President Reagan took office, he immediately removed President Carter?s restrictions; production boomed, gasoline became readily available, and prices dropped.”

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Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 03/22 at 05:05 PM
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Monday, March 21, 2005

How Far Have We Fallen?

Educational standards in colonial times vs those of today.

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[This article is scheduled to be published in the next newsletter of the RepublicanVoices website.]

John Locke was a man of considerable stature in the late 17th century.  His “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” was sufficiently highly regarded that the French thinkers of the 17th and early 18th century referred to Locke simply as The Philosopher.  His 1689 “Second Treatise of Civil Government” was the philosophical foundation for both the English Glorious Revolution of that year and, ninety years later, for our Declaration of Independence.

Some scholars have described Locke as the father of modern education in England.  His 1692 “Some Thoughts Concerning Education” provides us a base line for assessing present-day educational practices.  Harvard at that time was 56 years old.  The Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth 72 years earlier.

Locke begins with a child’s infancy and lays out an educational path through the child’s coming of age.  Locke also advises that children’s natural curiosity should be used to engage them in learning.  He continually admonishes against the use of punishments in education.  He brooks no nonsense or bullying by students, however, seeing that as a flaw in teaching morality and decorum. 

Several things will surprise today’s students.

The first surprise is the order of emphasis Locke assigns to the objects of education.  They are virtue, wisdom, breeding (courtesy and decorum), and, last, learning specific subjects.

Of virtue, he writes: “I place virtue as the first and most necessary of those endowments that belong to a man… As for the foundation of this, there ought to be very early imprinted on his mind a true notion of God, as of the independent Supreme Being, Author and Maker of all things, from Whom we receive all our good, Who loves us, and gives us all things.  And consequent to this, instill in him a love and reverence of this Supreme Being.”

Needless to say, not only God, but also “value judgments” are non-starters today.

Locke continues: “Having laid the foundations of virtue in a true notion of a God, such as the creed wisely teaches, as far as his age is capable, and by accustoming him to pray to Him, the next thing to be taken care of is to keep him exactly to speaking the truth, and by all the ways imaginable inclining him to be good-natured.”

Today, of course, Progressive educational doctrine reflects John Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy that denies God and timeless principles of morality.  The contrasting understanding of Locke’s era was that from prayerful immersion in the love of God, individuals absorb benevolence and a desire to emulate the Godly qualities of rectitude and fairness in dealing with their neighbors in the same way that they wish to be dealt with themselves.

Wisdom follows from the foundation of virtue.  Wisdom is knowing how most effectively to manage one’s affairs with foresight.  Acquiring it is a product of good temper, application of mind, and experience.  Wisdom can only be initiated by the teacher, as it is a life-long process of learning from experience how to apply the lessons of virtue.  What the teacher can do is to hinder the student from being cunning, what today we call playing the angles, or being street-smart (both of which are end products of John Dewey’s pragmatism, now taught as situation ethics, the idea that you make up the rules for each situation that arises).

Closely related to virtue and wisdom is the concept of good breeding, which flows from the love of God.  What Locke meant by the term was an Aristotelian mean between extremes: the student should not be too bashful or gauche in dealing with other people, nor should he be prideful and too full of self-importance.  He summarizes the aim as “not to think meanly of ourselves, and not to think meanly of others.”  Ill breeding reveals itself in “too little care of pleasing or showing respect for those we have to do with.”  The aim is “that general good will and regard for all people, which makes everyone have a care not to show in his carriage any contempt, disrespect, or neglect of them; but to express, according to the fashion and the way of that country, a respect and value for them according to their rank and condition.”  Students are to be schooled against roughness, fault-finding (denunciation or ridicule), and being contradictory and captious.

Needless to say, this is not the same thing as politically correct, multi-cultural education enforced by the Thought Police.  Nor is it what passes as “self-esteem” supposedly arising from sensitivity and diversity in education.

Locke than writes: “You will wonder, perhaps, that I put learning [of academic subjects] last, especially if I tell you I think it the least part… Reading and writing and learning I allow to be necessary, but yet not the chief business.  I imagine you would think him a very foolish fellow that should not value a virtuous or a wise man infinitely before a great scholar.” 

Today’s secular education completely reverses this understanding by simply denying the existence of God and virtue.  Tolerance, meaning the absence of all standards of behavior and thought, is the guideline for the teacher.  In practice it amounts to humiliating Christians and religious Jews and exalting all manners of paganism and liberal-socialist secularity.

Locke opines that a child should begin learning to read as soon as he begins to talk, but it should be approached as a matter of enjoyment for the child.  Today, of course, far too many students can’t read well, if at all, when they “graduate” from high school.

The young pupil should be given to understand that reading is a special key to gaining the privileges that his older siblings and their friends enjoy, so that the child will be eager to learn.  Reading should begin with something children enjoy, like Aesop’s Fables. 

While Locke supports reverence for God, he counsels against the customary practice of reading the entire Bible, as understanding it requires more experience and wisdom than the student may be expected to possess.  Suitable for young students, however, are stories from the Bible, “such as are the story of Joseph and his brethren, of David and Goliath…”

“When he can read English well, it will be seasonable to enter him in writing…. When he can write well and quick, I think it may be convenient not only to continue the exercise of his hand in writing, but also to improve the use of it further in drawing…How many buildings may a man see, how many machines and habits meet with, the ideas whereof would be easily retained and communicated by a little skill in drawing..”

“Shorthand, an art, as I have been told, known only in England, may perhaps be thought worth the learning, both for dispatch in what men may write for their own memory, and concealment of what they would not have lie open to every eye.”

“As soon as he can speak English, ‘tis time for him to learn some other language.  This nobody doubts of, when French is proposed [which Locke thinks should be learned via intensive and extensive conversation and reading with a person fluent in French, rather than learning grammar rules]...When he can speak and read French well…. he should proceed to Latin….For the exercise of his writing, let him sometimes translate Latin into English….” 

Locke would gladden the hearts of today’s students by downplaying the teaching of grammar rules, which he believes can most effectively be absorbed by association with good reading and with those who speak well.  “But more particularly to determine the proper season for grammar, I do not see how it can reasonably be made anyone’s study, but as an introduction to rhetoric.”  The problem today, of course, is finding someone who speaks English well.

“....join as much other real knowledge with it as you can, beginning with that which lies most obvious to the senses, such as is the knowledge of minerals, plants and animals, and particularly timber and fruit trees….but more especially geography, astronomy, and anatomy….At the same time that he is learning French and Latin, a child, as has been said, may also be entered into arithmetic, geography, chronology, history, and geometry too.”  By chronology, Locke means knowing the principal dates of world history, so that a pattern emerges in the student’s mind, against which his study of history will be more understandable.

The student should also acquire a basic knowledge of the laws of the land, which requires studying the documents that collectively make up the English constitution, together with the common law, and reading in what Locke calls natural philosophy.  In that regard, he recommends works such as Cicero’s “Offices” and Grotius’s “Concerning the Law of War and Peace,” a study of the application of religious natural-law principles to international relations. 

Finally, Locke recommends familiarity with the chemistry of Robert Boyle and the mathematics of Isaac Newton, both of whom were Locke’s personal friends.

Secular education today has inverted Locke’s approach by assuming the aspect primarily of a trade school to prepare students for high-paying jobs.  The question we must ask is whether doing so, without first instilling a respect for God, along with the ideals of virtue, courtesy and civility that flow from that approach, is preserving, let alone creating, a decent and just society.

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Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 03/21 at 05:39 PM
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There Really is Diversity

Not in the politically-correct classrooms monitored by the Thought Police, but in the actuality of distinctly different human races.

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Much of liberal-socialist energy since the late 1960s has been devoted to “proving” that it is unscientific to make distinctions between the sexes, human races, and political and social cultures.  According to liberal-socialist intellectuals, we are all essentially identical and interchangeable, like parts of a machine coming off an assembly line.  In the liberal view, those who assert that there are real and meaningful differences among these are creating a self-serving, racist construct to oppress women and racial minorities.

From this liberal academic milieu come the various branches of Critical Studies theory.  The primary thrust of Critical Studies is to deny any authority to history and to established traditions or customs by dismissing them, for example, as Marx did religion, which he called the opium of the masses, created by the ruling classes to narcotize and suppress the workers.

Critical Studies says that the existence of hundreds or thousands of years of tradition is meaningless, because it’s just ideas in somebody’s head.  Therefore, liberal-socialist adherents to Critical Studies are equally free to make of law and tradition whatever they wish it to be in order to further their concepts of social justice.

Our “elite” law schools - Harvard and Yale - have been primary sources of this doctrine, which sheds light on the surge of judicial activism since the 1960s.

Reducing it to essentials, Critical Studies is simply the law of the jungle: eat or be eaten, and liberals intend to be the eaters.  Their ideas are as good as anyone else’s, because under secular socialism there is no God-given morality and no human nature. 

The socialized political state has both the prerogative and the ability to obliterate all historical distinctions between men and women and between social and economic classes.  The socialized political state must eliminate individuality, crushing everyone into a common, homogenized mass of citizens, each receiving from the socialistic state roughly the same amount of income, each entitled to receive an equal share of the state’s goods and services.

Increasingly, however, as rational and truly scientific minds, unbiased by predetermined conclusions, investigate claims of underlying unity and identity of men and women and the various races, it is becoming clear that Critical Studies has no legs to stand on. 

Larry Auster’s The View From The Right has a brief summary of such an analysis, together with weblinks to the essays.  In Races are real, says Times, Mr. Auster writes:

“Has the millennium arrived?  An op-ed in the New York Times admits that the various races of mankind exist as a biological fact and not just a social construct. The reasoning of the author, Armand Marie Leroi, is interesting.  It’s long been said by liberals that the same physical variations found between races also exist among individuals in the same race, and therefore race is not real.  While this orthodox liberal argument is wholly unpersuasive when you think about it, it has been persuasive to lots of people.  However, as Leroi points out, the liberal view ignores the fact that the various traits tend to come in packages, a certain type of skull shape with a certain kind of hair with certain types of facial features, and so on.  This package is, of course, what we call race.  So Leroi is simply admitting something that mentally normal people, i.e., people whose minds are not controlled by the absurd lies of liberalism, have always recognized as a matter of course.  Steve Sailer also discusses the Leroi article at length.  [“A Family Tree in Every Gene,” NYT, 3-14-05]”

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Whence Came the Liberals?

Liberal-socialism is a 19th century ideology that afflicted the United States long after The Declaration of independence and the writing of our Constitution.

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A reader emailed the following:

“Enjoyed your article Who Are the Moral Free Riders?? Seems there is a lot of misinformation about the origins of things.? PBS in its Education?History?program only traces back to Jefferson, ignoring any colonial efforts towards education.? The Catholic split shows that the “public” school was in fact too Protestant.?
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Do you have any thoughts about the origins of liberal thought in the colonies.? It seems that the Puritains?held the?work ethic, the Jamestown speculators used indentured servants and slaves, and the Pennsylvania seems to be the pluralistic colony under William Penn.? Pennsylvania is?said to have?even been?a haven to the displaced Indians.? Where would the liberals fit in prior to Jefferson?”

My reply:

Thanks very much for your interest.

I don’t believe that there were any significant numbers of liberals in the colonies prior to Jefferson, and I wouldn’t call him a liberal in the sense that the word is used today.

As you may be aware, the word liberal has been hijacked by the socialists.  The original liberals were people like Adam Smith and Edmund Burke.  The word was then literally descriptive: Smith, Burke, and contemporary Americans like Adams and Jefferson, believed that the government that governs least is the best government.  The free market-place and laissez-faire were original liberalism in England, becoming dominant in the decades before 1776 (which coincidentally is the publication date for Adam Smith’s famous “Wealth of Nations.”)  In our War of Independence, this liberalism, harking back to John Locke and the 1689 English Glorious Revolution, held that any ruler who tramples upon the inalienable, natural-law rights of individuals to life, liberty, and private property (“no taxation without representation”) has thereby forfeited his right to rule.

The hallmark of the original liberalism upon which England’s constitution and our own were based is that the ruler is always subject to the laws of God and Nature’s God, as Jefferson put it in the Declaration.  In contrast, modern-day liberal-socialists hold that this is selfish greediness, that the only proper mode of political organization is to socialize all individual property in order to produce equal distribution of wealth, which theoretically brings perfection to human life.  Liberals dismiss God and declare that their own ideology is superior.

After the Civil War, when big, interstate business came into existence, the Progressive movement absorbed the secular humanism of Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity and its concepts of secular justice, via people like John Stuart Mill and Charles Darwin (another coincidence: Mill’s and Darwin’s best known works were both published in 1859).  God, spiritual religion, and timeless morality (in the sense, for example, of the Ten Commandments) were dismissed as unscientific ignorance, to be replaced by the intellectual concepts of human regulatory councils who would define the ways people were to conduct their daily lives in order to perfect human society.

The Progressive movement, of which Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were more or less exemplars, merged officially with the American Socialist party in the 1920s, creating today’s liberal-socialists.

In that regard, see:

The Decline of Western Civilization: Explanatory Notes - Part Four

How Socialists Stole Liberalism

What is Liberalism?

Who Are the Liberal-Socialists?

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