Tag Archive for: christianity

A Child’s-Eye View of Communism’s Absurdities

Candid childhood memories of life behind the Iron Curtain


It is a truism to say that children have a grasp of reality different from adults; a clearer and more honest grasp that in most cases they lose with maturity. Rare is the man or woman who retains that innocent capacity to see through grown-up hypocrisy and pretence, presented to us so vividly in Hans Andersen’s memorable fairy-tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

In this humorous memoir of growing up in a city (unidentified) of 40,000 in the southern Urals of the Soviet Union in the 1970s-1980s, Fr Alexander Krylov, of Russian-German origin, manages to retain the undeceived eyes of childhood as he relates the absurdities and contradictions of life under Communism.

God and family

So many memoirs of living under the Soviet regime are, understandably, riven with bitterness and anger; the suffering has been too great to forget. The young Krylov, an only child, was protected from this by the love and faith of his family: his Catholic mother and grandmother and his Orthodox father.

The latter died when he was aged seven; showing unusual understanding for his age, Krylov realised that he was now “the one man in the family.” A certain independence of outlook seems to have characterised him from the start — probably because, despite the constant atheist propaganda impressed on him at school and in the wider society, “God’s presence in everyday life was… self-evident for our family.”

Much of this was owing to his grandmother’s influence for, as the family breadwinner, his mother had to work long hours outside the home. This grandmother, who had grown up in a German-speaking colony in Russia, resembled a traditional Russian “babushka” in her fortitude, her generosity and her strong faith that years of living in Leonid Brezhnev’s decrepit Soviet society could not erase.

In this world, all its citizens were officially atheist yet, as Krylov relates, everyone in his neighbourhood “knew” who the believers were and what religion they followed. His grandmother “saw an ally in every human being who was seeking God — Jews, Orthodox and Muslims” because — especially in death — “common prayer was much more important than any disagreement.”

There were no churches in his city and he only saw the inside of an Orthodox church (in western Ukraine) before starting school, aged six. Overwhelmed by its icons, candles and awe-inspiring atmosphere, Krylov told his mother, “Let’s stay here forever.” Undeterred, his grandmother erected a homemade altar in their small apartment, with its holy pictures, holy water, hymns and secret celebrations of the great Christian feasts. A candle would be lit in the window at Christmas; it was “somehow implicitly clear that God does not abandon human beings as long as a light is burning in at least one window on Christmas Eve and at least one person is waiting for the Christ-child.”

Economic woes

The author takes a gentle swipe at western society, obsessed with dietary fashions, when he explains, in a chapter titled “Healthy Diet”, why Soviet citizens had no choice but a healthy diet. Trying to survive in a corrupt and inefficient command economy, almost all families had an allotment with fruit trees and vegetables, to compensate for what they could not buy in the shops: everything possible was pickled, canned, stored or preserved. For some reason chickens were plentiful:

“Thanks to the poor work of the chemical industry, they were raised with no additives and usually looked as though they had walked by themselves from the chicken factory to the grocery store.”

I laughed aloud as I read this and other reminiscences, narrated in the candid way of a man who has not lost the artless gaze of a child. (After a distinguished academic career in Moscow, Fr Krylov decided to become a priest aged 42, on Easter Monday 2011 and was ordained in 2016.)

Another anecdote describes how he briefly worked in a grocery store where the shelves were often lacking common items buyers craved. Organising the shop’s store room, he noticed many such items, piled them on a trolley and wheeled it through into the shop, to the delighted surprise of the customers. The teenage boy could not understand why the manageress looked so discomfited and why his employment was suddenly curtailed.

Inner life

Just as the late Russian poet, Irina Ratushinskaya, who spent four years in the Gulag for writing “subversive” poetry, commented she was told so often as a child “there is no God”, that she began to believe in Him, Krylov reflects: “The prohibition against owning a Bible in the Soviet Union could only confirm its importance.”

In a telling incident in his teens, he describes a classroom meeting where these young Soviet citizens planned “to put socialist democracy into action.” This meant denouncing a fellow student who would not obey the rules. Krylov, who had befriended him, defended him in front of his classmates. They then turned on him, aware that he too was somehow “different.” The author comments, “Although I was always present, I lived my own life”. This hidden, inner life, which they sensed though it was never made explicit, presented an existential threat to his fellow student ideologues.

Inevitably, Lenin’s image was everywhere. Joining the Communist youth group, the Young Pioneers, one wore a red neckerchief and star. “Depicted on this star were the head of Lenin and three tongues of fire. I shared with no one my impression that this star depicted the head of Lenin burning in hell.” This was the response of a child whose private faith, never mentioned in class, helped to protect him against the atheism he was forced to listen to in public.

Finally, aged 15, overhearing the jocular remark of a friend’s father that vodka was “opium for the people”, Krylov comments: “Suddenly my eyes were opened: [I realised that] Communism had simply become a new religion.”

If the Emperor in this case was not exactly naked, nonetheless the short, discrete chapters of this kindly memoir remind readers that his clothes were uncomfortable, unsuitable, ill-fitting and threadbare.

This review has been republished with the author’s permission from The Conservative Woman.

AUTHOR

Francis Phillips

More by Francis Phillips

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Troubling Trends: Is the Christian Era coming to a Close?

Secularisation is decimating the world’s largest faith group.


We live in precarious times. The world is changing in ways we could not fathom a short forty years ago. Believing Christians, pro-family advocates and patriotic folks are fast becoming today’s marginalised communities.

For centuries the West, aka “Western Christendom”, was a dynamic and expanding enterprise that by the late 1800s effectively ruled the world. Even when warring among themselves, Westerners did their utmost to spread the faith. The world has been tremendously enriched by missions, schools, clinics and much else founded in the spirit of Christianity.

Today that is a flagging spirit, something painfully obvious. Two recent batches of demographic data seem to bear that out.

Replacement

The first came from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS), reporting that only 42.6% of people in England and Wales identify as Christian. The UK Telegraph headline summed it up:

Christians now a minority in England and Wales for first time”

ONS reports that in 2001, 72% of people in England and Wales identified as Christian. Those identifying as “no religion” increased from 15% in 2001 to 37.2% in 2021. In the last decade self-identified Muslims rose by almost a third to 6.5%. For the same period, Hindus realised a 13% increase, rising to 1.7%.

Interestingly, self-identified Muslims are more religious than Christians. More people attend mosque every week in the UK than attend church. It has been that way for a while. According to a Christian Research study from twenty years ago:

51 per cent of the Muslims quizzed in the 2001 census said they prayed every day, compared to just 6.3 per cent of Christians who attend church services each week.

A 2005 Christian Research study, “The Future of the Church”, predicted that the  number of Muslims attending mosque every week would double that of Christians attending church by 2040, forecasting:

[T]he number of Christians attending Sunday service could see a two-thirds drop over the next three decades. The current 9.4 per cent of the population currently in regular attendance at Sunday service is expected to be under 5 per cent by 2040.

The UK is well on the way to meeting that forecast.

Secularisation

The second batch of troublesome data is the Pew Research Center’s study, “Modeling the Future of Religion in America”. Their findings are that Americans are leaving Christianity   in droves and identifying as “atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular.’”

[I]n 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. Adherents of all other religions — including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists — totaled about 6%.

[P]rojections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, “nones” would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population.

Similar figures are cited in British sociologist Stephen Bullivant’s just published book Nonverts: The Making of Ex-Christian America (Oxford University Press).

The same trend is found throughout the Anglosphere, Europe and even Latin America. Is the Christian Era coming to a close?

Consider: For the sake of “religious neutrality,” the Christian calendar devised 1500 years ago by Dionysius Exiguus, denominating history per the Incarnation, used B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini) for dating history. That practice has been abandoned for BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). While doing so may well be more “inclusive”, it nonetheless attests to the diminishing influence of Christianity. This is just one of modernity’s thousand cuts.

While religious transition is usually a lengthy process — consider the Great Schism, the Renaissance and Reformation — the twentieth century vastly accelerated secularisation of the West. Depleted and demoralised by two world wars, quickly followed by unprecedented affluence and lightning technological progress, the West saw mammon thoroughly triumph by the 1960s, when religious expression was banned from the public square in America.

Sobering consequences

With secularism comes moral relativism, where there are no absolutes. Rather, all is relative, situational and governed by feeling rather than thinking. In fact, those steadfastly standing by absolutes are often the object of chattering class derision. Despite the proliferation of “Pride” festivals throughout the West, today any public declaration of pride in being Christian, Western or White can be a career-terminator.

Along with mammon-worshiping secularism, there has been, worldwide, a 50% decline in fertility in 50 years. This is most acute in the Global North countries and is leading to unsustainable economic and social conditions. Little wonder that governments in the West and elsewhere are doing backflips to boost birthrates. Nothing like the Biblical injunction “be fruitful and multiply” is to be found in globalism, mammon-worship or whatever label that comports with modernism/secularism.

In fact, the fanatical zeal of acolytes of the secular religion, aka “wokeism”, is comparable to that of the early Bolshevik regime. Just note the ostracising, cancelling and complete intolerance of those with whom they disagree. And these folks are in power in most of the West. If you have any doubt, remember your history: as a friend recently reminded me, statues are pulled down and place names are changed after revolutions.

It is long past time that people of faith, the family-friendly and the patriotic types trying to preserve their respective historical nations cease quibbling among themselves and circle the wagons. Yes, the best defence is offence, but we need to consolidate our position first. That is called building community.

Remember that appeasement doesn’t work. Virtue signalling and sacrificing kindred spirits to persuade your enemies that you’re not racist, bigoted, homophobic, etc., are just bending the knee to the bad guys. They validate the regime. That doesn’t build community and solidarity. As the folks say down home, don’t feed the alligator, hoping to be eaten last.

AUTHOR

Louis T. March

Louis T. March has a background in government, business and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family… More by Louis T. March

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Going Beyond The Culture Wars

How Western culture has been moulded by faith.


Faith Challenges Culture: A Reflection of the Dynamics of Modernity
Paul O’Callaghan | Lexington Books | 2021, 142 pp

In this terrific book, Dubliner Fr Paul O’Callaghan, a lecturer in the school of theology in the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, presents a succinct and insightful analysis of a daunting topic: the interaction of faith and culture.

He sets himself the task of examining how Western culture has been moulded by faith (by which he means faith in the strict sense of revealed religion, and not religion in general) and in particular how this is true of four realities key to contemporary culture: rationality, freedom, equality and (surprisingly) conquest.

As we might imagine, the faith-culture relationship will of necessity be a complex one. They are two very different realities: faith stems from a divine initiative, indeed an “interruption” into human history, while culture is the fruit of human endeavour. And nevertheless as the author points out, the West has developed without either element erasing the other; rather they “seek each other out”, each respecting the contribution of the other (for the most part):

Christian revelation and grace are not meant to ride roughshod over reality, over the world as we know it, over the lives and dreams and projects of its inhabitants, over the traditions and civilizations consolidated over the centuries…”

And yet we know that Modernity (the period dating from around the 16th or 17th century) has been predicated on an elevation of man accompanied by a diminished view of God and a disregard for the West’s Christian roots — an unfortunate over-correction of the mediaeval world’s bias for the divine over the human.

The effects of the secularising tendency of modernity are apparent in the impoverishing effect on those four key areas of rationality, freedom, equality and conquest, distorting them in the direction of rationalism, licence, reductive egalitarianism and rapine respectively.

The interaction of faith and culture

O’Callaghan discusses briefly a number of core tenets of Western civilisation which have their roots in the Bible, such as the notion of intrinsic human dignity, the centrality of human freedom, and the sanctity of marriage.

He cites the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ most interesting distinction between the Judeo-Christian concept of “righteousness and guilt” and the pagan “honour and shame” culture. The former places man’s intrinsic worth on something interior and not immediately apparent, something at the realm of freedom and conscience, and ultimately a person’s interior relationship with God.

The latter on the other hand looks to the external actions alone, for which a person earns honour or shame from others. Such a culture easily (perhaps excessively) exalts its heroes and unequivocally and even brutally condemns its enemies (think “cancel culture”). Lacking the classic Judeo-Christian distinction between sin and sinner, it equates the sinner with their apparent sins, and so is merciless in shaming (and “cancelling”) offenders.

Many core elements of Western culture come from an “intelligent and practical assimilation of Christian Revelation” which is complex and ongoing. There has never been, nor can there ever be, a “purely Christian culture” (despite the nostalgia of some for a Medieval Golden Age of Christendom): sin is a constant in human existence, and has always been present in human culture. Modernity itself, despite all its secularising tendencies, is a “highly positive phenomenon”. As Pope Benedict has reminded Christians, Modernity’s own intrinsic merits as well as its “material fidelity to Christianity” must be acknowledged.

While the theme of the modern world’s fundamental indebtedness to Christianity has recently been revisited and popularised in Tom Holland’s highly successful Dominion, this is not Holland’s discovery: it has been covered in the past by the likes of Dostoevsky, Guardini, T.S. Eliot, and even Jürgen Habermas (for whom the West’s sense of personal conscience, human rights, equality and democracy is built directly on “the Jewish ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love… All the rest is postmodern chatter.”)

Unfortunately of course, the Christian roots of Western values are increasingly being ignored and forgotten, and it would be, in the words of the Dutch reformed pastor Wim Rietkerk, modern man’s biggest mistake if he thought “that he could keep enjoying the fruits without the roots, without walking humbly with his God. … There is no future for a Western civilisation cut off from its roots.”

The four key tenets

O’Callaghan then focusses his attention on those four concepts so central to the West’s very identity: rationality, freedom, equality, and conquest. The last, “conquest” is an unusual concept, and the author explains it as follows:

We assume that what we obtain, what is at our disposal, we have a right to, as if it were our very own and belonging to no-one else. Whether we are talking about children, or property, or space travel, or instant telematic communication to the other side of the world … we see the world around us as a terrain of conquest, of achievement, of success.

He examines how these four notions as we understand them in the West, are essentially the fruit of Christian revelation.

The first, rationality, was already much prized — as logos — by the Greeks. For them rationality could not be understood without reference to the divine. Nevertheless the Christian conception of reason is even more elevated and optimistic than that of the Greeks, for whom reason was marred by very significant limitations.

Human reason for Christians receives a greater trustworthiness on account of the trustworthiness of its author: God. Nevertheless the secularising tendency of Modernity has lost the vastness of the power of reason as glimpsed by the Greeks, and boldly affirmed by Christianity. It began by reducing reason to a merely “computational and mathematical” power, and even now tends towards a radical scepticism which jettisons all confidence in reason.

O’Callaghan goes on to discuss how much the Western notion of freedom owes to Christianity. For Christianity freedom is essentially the filial freedom of those who are called to become God’s children: it is the “freedom of the glory of the children of God” in the words of St Paul. This is the ultimate goal for freedom to aspire to, a true “freedom for”.

However, this Christian-inspired concept of freedom came gradually to be eclipsed by a reductive “freedom from” — which reduces freedom to the mere capacity to choose one thing over another, without any intrinsic direction or dynamism. This reductive freedom is developed by the likes of Ockham, Bacon, Luther and more recently Foucault. Nevertheless, there has been a recovery of the richer conception of freedom, in particular by the Personalist movement for whom freedom is inseparable from man’s fundamental relatedness to others, and to God.

The notion of the fundamental equality of human beings so central to Western values is equally something stemming from Christian revelation. Man’s social and relational nature is presented throughout the Bible as constitutive of his very being. Against this is a non-Christian understanding of relationality as a sign of weakness, insofar as it implies dependence on others; a lack of the autonomy so valued by Modernity (and to a degree even by the Greeks).

The equal dignity under God of all men receives an unequivocal affirmation throughout the Bible. And yet the manifest inequalities between men are not a scandal for Christianity in the way they are for modern culture (for which all “inequality” must be ultimately stamped out), because the presence of neediness is a divine call to the others to live out the charity which must be at the heart of all social relations.

There follows a most illuminating consideration of the fourth tenet: the idea of conquest (by which we see “the world around us as a terrain of conquest”). What O’Callaghan shows here is that the now dominant “anthropology of the self-made man who designs and constructs himself down to the last detail” has lost sight of the Christian notion of gratitude.

The radical individualism that has developed in the West rejects as “childish”, indebtedness to others. Dignity requires that the self must be “self-made” and autonomous. This produces a great incapacity to receive from others, and with that a systematic ingratitude.

However for the Christian, absolutely everything is a gift from God, and man is a receiver of gifts before anything else. This then allows us in our turn to give and receive from others — there is no shame, nor subjugation in receiving understood in Christian terms.

Modernity, on the other hand, is marked by a systematic rejection of gift and so is marked by a striking ingratitude. What is needed is a return to the sense of gratitude gestured at by Heidegger when he said that “denken ist danken” (“to think is to thank”); that even “thought itself is a grateful receptiveness to the giveness of being”.

And so the ungrateful West is faced with the important task of rediscovering true gratitude, also gratitude towards God. The secular world’s “eclipse of worship” (to coin a phrase from Charles Taylor in his work A Secular Age) means that “humans have stopped recognising God as the source of all good and intelligibility. They have stopped thanking God, they no longer recognise the world they live in as a gift, they no longer live ‘eucharistic’ lives.” And such ingratitude is a serious state of affairs: “the most abominable of sins” for Ignatius of Loyola. The author concludes that:

“This has led many of those influenced by modern culture to a generalised loss of faith and to a pathology of individualism and ingratitude, as they attempt to live out their lives in isolation from their fellows, unprepared to recognise the world they live in and the privileges they enjoy as so many gifts they should be profoundly grateful for.”

The question of the gratitude leads on in the Epilogue to a very interesting discussion on the integration of conservatism and progressive liberalism. O’Callaghan shows that both the conservative and liberal tempers are embraced by Christianity: it is conservative insofar as it is conscious of being the receiver of gifts from God, and handed down by others by tradition; the Christian is by definition a conserver of these gifts.

At the same time, the Christian doctrine of Original Sin necessitates the liberal dimension since certain elements from the past will of necessity be tainted by sin and in need of reform and purification; not everything merits conservation. But there is need of a delicate balance of these two opposed tendencies: too much conservatism produces a lazy complacency that is fearful of change, while too excessive liberalism fails to appreciate what has been received from predecessors.

Conclusion

It is hard to overestimate the value of this book. O’Callaghan shows how our contemporary culture simply cannot be understood without a deep grasp of its Christian roots. And furthermore, he shows what damage our culture has already suffered because the key tenets of rationality, freedom, equality and conquest have to the degree to which they have become unmoored from their Christian roots.

At the same time, these affirmations are never simplistic; O’Callaghan takes into account the great complexity of the relationship between faith and culture. And even though it is quite a short book, the author does not oversimplify the issues involved. For that reason, parts of the book will be challenging for someone unfamiliar with the issues involved.

Certainly, this book would make a wonderful basic text for a college course on faith and culture. It would also very beneficial for anyone interested in the deeper issues at play in our current “culture wars”, where much of the discussion is unfortunately as heated as it is uninformed by philosophy and theology.

AUTHOR

Fr Gavan Jennings

Rev. Gavan Jennings studied philosophy at University College Dublin, Ireland and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He is co-editor of the monthly journal Position Papers. He teaches occasional… 

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Is Harvard hopelessly woke? What Harvard is really like

Like most things, Harvard is what one makes of it — and this can include experiences rooted in faith and friendship. 

Harvard is often seen as the archetypal American university, offering a model that many others seek to emulate. So, as a new school year and new application season begin, it seems fitting to ask: what is this storied institution really like anyway? Is it home to heroes or heretics? Maker of gods… or the godless? My response is quite simple: neither extreme is accurate. Harvard is not as heavenly as some think; fortunately, it’s not as bad either.

My college decision was practically effortless. Harvard, I was told, offered everything a motivated, book-smart student could want: challenging courses; fabulous research opportunities; world-class professors; and, most importantly, insightful, intrepid, intellectually curious peers.

I envisioned a campus alive with students who genuinely loved learning, who asked big questions and pursued them to their limits, who discussed Dostoyevsky at lunch and astrophysics at dinner, and who would challenge, shape, and inspire me over the course of our college journey.

Needless to say, this vision wasn’t entirely accurate. Arriving on campus last fall, I was surprised to find that many of my peers did not choose Harvard out of a deep, reverent hunger for veritas. Rather, their motives were primarily mercenary: they had enrolled for the degree and the connections. Almost every Harvard student I know really is a smart, accomplished individual; test scores and ambition, however, are not necessarily synonymous with intellectual curiosity.

Lowered standards, heightened biases  

Critics of Harvard tend to focus on academic standards and political bias. In terms of academics, it is telling that Harvard’s two most popular concentrations are economics and government. Read: wealth and power. Students with these two goals are incentivised to take easy courses whenever possible: between grade inflation and the competitive nature of consulting applications, a B from a fabulous but challenging professor just won’t do.

As such, students offset rigorous concentration requirements with “gems,” pleasant, untaxing courses in which A’s are guaranteed and learning is optional. Last fall alone, over 800 students enrolled in a gen-ed course fittingly entitled “Sleep,” though how many attended more than one lecture remains unclear.

Administrators, meanwhile, do little to counter this trend. Notorious gems (“Sleep” excepted) are occasionally identified and restructured, but with tuition-paying customers to please and a reputation to maintain, addressing lowered standards will be essentially impossible.

The real tragedy is not the proliferation of easy A’s but the slow suffocation of liberal arts education. In lieu of a robust core is a smattering of “distributional requirements” easily satisfied by niche, fringe, or downright non-substantive courses. In other words, “Sleep” might be the only science course a Harvard student ever takes.

Thus, it’s possible to graduate from Harvard without challenging one’s prejudices, without genuinely exploring different disciplines, and without ever diverting one’s gaze from the holy trinity of law, finance, and consulting. Alas, the utilitarian ethos prevails; it was never about veritas anyway.

Harvard critics’ true concern, however, is not academic standards but politics — just how radical is the “Kremlin on the Charles”? According to the numbers, very. While 82 percent of Harvard faculty identify as liberal or very liberal, a mere 1 percent identify as conservative, and none identify as very conservative. The student body, luckily, boasts slightly more ideological diversity: conservative or very conservative individuals made up 6 percent of the Class of 2022, and nearly 70 percent were progressive or very progressive.

Can academic freedom, civil discourse, or mere open-mindedness thrive in such an environment? Here are a few illustrative examples that make it tempting to view Harvard as a powerful brainwashing machine:

First, my hallmates and I attended a mandatory, dorm-wide meeting at the start of the academic year to discuss the hookup culture. We were tasked with creating explanatory posters exploring the hookup culture in its various dimensions. One group of students crafted a suitably vague definition of “hookup” for their poster, while another brainstormed adjectives to describe hookups (highlights include “exciting” and “experimental”). Not once were other approaches to sex and dating, let alone inconvenient biological realities (sex not infrequently makes babies), ever mentioned.

Second, this past semester I watched a trembling professor issue a formal apology at the behest of her outraged students and teaching staff. Her crime: reading aloud a passage from Invisible Man — a novel advocating civil rights and equality — that contained a racial epithet. Although this incident had occurred during a discussion section before a small subset of enrollees, critics swiftly and loudly demanded that she ask the entire class for forgiveness. Pressuring a professor to apologise for her language threatens academic freedom. Critics certainly deserve a voice, but not at the expense of their professor’s.

Finally, I saw a formerly well-liked friend ostracised by her residential housemates during her last month at Harvard. This jovial, whip-smart senior was a Latina Democrat; she volunteered regularly at a youth homeless shelter, vocally advocated racial justice, and actively disliked Trump. Just participating in two pro-life rallies, it turns out, was enough to outweigh all of that.

Faith, friendship, and signs of hope

While such everyday occurrences make it tempting to believe that Harvard is a lost cause, there are two important limiting factors that suggest otherwise. First, because Harvard is a very large institution — with twelve graduate and professional schools, fifty concentrations in the undergraduate college, and an extensive array of administrative offices — centralised or consistent strategic communication is next to impossible. Having many supervisors, counterintuitively, leads to little supervision — within this large bureaucratic institution are many conservative niches, ranging from a controversial pseudonymous publication to a philosophical debating society to a growing pro-life presence on campus.

The second limiting factor is Harvard’s inherent elitism. Prestige and influence require class distinctions; in a truly equitable world, Harvard does not exist. Thus, Harvard will continue to champion progressivism — but never enough to endanger its own future. Harvard students of all political stripes perceive this hypocrisy; if anything, they graduate not more liberal but more cynical. So much for the formidable brainwashing machine.

In addition to these two limiting factors, my first year — which was hands-down my happiest in a decade — suggests that Harvard is not a lost cause. I learned to read ancient Greek, solved triple integrals, and wrote an essay on Fredrick Douglass’s conception of the human soul. I kayaked on the Charles, explored Boston’s fabulous art museums, and attended a weeklong seminar in Oxford. I befriended the dining hall workers, learned how to swing dance, and performed Schumann with my chamber ensemble.

Despite the prevalence of secularism and credentialism at Harvard, faith and friendship were central to my joyful first year. In fact, Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is alive at Harvard. Every morning, a dozen students attend daily Mass before eating breakfast together in a nearby dining hall. Weekly talks at the Harvard Catholic Center precede solemn adoration accompanied by a student band. And this past Easter alone, thirty-one members of the Harvard community were fully initiated into the Catholic Church.

Outside of the Catholic and Christian communities, Harvard students are very respectful of religion. Talking openly about my Catholic faith elicits not smirks and grimaces but genuine curiosity and the occasional request to join me at Mass. Although I attended Catholic school all my life, my faith life has never thrived as at Harvard.

Nor have I ever been blessed with such strong, beautiful friendships. Just one week into freshman year, I had already found a group of kind, intelligent friends. Yes, our everyday conversations are less intellectual than anticipated; yes, our educational goals differ significantly. But far more important is character. My friends at Harvard are truly virtuous and generous people.

What’s more, my experience is hardly singular. Personality is an important factor in Harvard’s admissions process — so while many admitted students are indeed ambitious and career-oriented, they are for the most part essentially decent people. This emphasis on personability combined with its unique housing system, active extracurricular life, and countless study abroad and fellowship opportunities means that Harvard intentionally and successfully fosters friendship.

One year into my Harvard career, I can report that no stereotype of the university is entirely accurate. By no means is Harvard an immaculate place: intellectual curiosity often suffers at the expense of utility, classes and administrators can be overly political, and students with unpopular views are often frightened into silence. Still, I have great hope for Harvard.

While it’s true that students can avoid Homer, Shakespeare, or Tolstoy if they wish, it is equally true that those fascinated by such literary giants will encounter first editions of their texts in the rare books library and brilliant professors eager to elucidate them.

Though Harvard students can graduate without having explored questions about God, morality, and the meaning of life, those brave enough to ask can consult prominent theologians and learned priests, travel to Jerusalem on Harvard’s dime, or simply walk down Bow Street to pray in magnificent St. Paul’s.

In the end, Harvard, like most things, is what one makes of it. It can never be perfect; what it can be is a haven for faith, friendship, and the pursuit of veritas.

This article has been republished with permission from The Public Discourse

AUTHOR

Olivia Glunz

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. All rights reserved.

Yes, Elisjsha Dicken Is a Good Samaritan—and He Deserves a Medal

On Sunday evening—July 17, 2022—at the Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana, a gunman opened fire in a food court. He killed three people and wounded two others. He might have murdered many more but for the quick work of a man named Elisjsha Dicken, who pulled out his own gun and blew away the assailant.

Dicken, who was legally carrying a firearm under the state’s constitutional carry law, was hailed as a “Good Samaritan” for saving lives. The next day, the Greenwood police chief added, “Many more people would have died last night if not for the responsible armed citizen.”

Gun control advocates immediately condemned the police chief for his “Good Samaritan” reference, drawn from a famous parable told by Jesus Christ. A local reporter exclaimed,

The term, ‘Good Samaritan’ came from a Bible passage of a man from Samaria who stopped on the side of the road to help a man who was injured and ignored. I cannot believe we live in a world where the term can equally apply to someone killing someone.

Who is correct here, the police chief or the reporter? A related question is, Did Jesus support self-defense, or the taking of a guilty life to save the lives of innocents?

In Chapter 10 of the Book of Luke in the New Testament, Jesus tells his parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan is judged “good” because when he came upon a man who was beaten and robbed, he chose of his own free will to help the injured man with his own resources. As I wrote in my 2020 book, Was Jesus a Socialist?, if the Samaritan had ignored the man or expected the government to help him, we would likely know him today as the “Good-for-Nothing” Samaritan.

The Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable did not commit a violent act himself. The injured man’s assailants were presumably long gone. He stepped in to assist the assailed. So strictly speaking, the Greenwood police chief’s reference was not entirely analogous to Elisjsha Dicken’s action in taking down the shooter at the shopping mall.

For centuries, many people have employed the term “Good Samaritan” to describe anyone who isn’t compelled to come to the aid of the innocent but takes the initiative to do so anyway. A Good Samaritan takes charge of a bad situation, improves it as best he can, and prevents further harm. That is exactly what Elisjsha Dicken did in Greenwood.

Undoubtedly, the critical reporter in this instance is a person of good intent. He can’t imagine Jesus endorsing Dicken’s action because Jesus was a man of peace. He might even cite Matthew, chapter five, in which Jesus urges us to “turn the other cheek” if someone insults us or physically slaps us in the face.

“The question of rendering insult for insult, however, is a far cry from defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist,” writes Lars Larson in Does Jesus Christ Support Self-Defense?. To “turn the other cheek” means to refrain from a needless escalation of a problematic situation. Elisjsha Dicken did not escalate anything; in fact, he dramatically and decisively de-escalated it in the only possible way, given the circumstances.

The reporter likely shares the widely-held, radically pacifist or “namby-pamby” view of Jesus—the view that he would never endorse an act of violence for any purpose, even if it’s necessary to save lives. It implies that Elisjsha Dicken should have run for cover and allowed the Greenwood shooter to kill another dozen or two people. That’s wrong, if not downright blasphemous.

When Jesus dined at The Last Supper, he gave his disciples specific instructions, including this one (Luke 22:36):

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 

Note that he did not advise anyone, then or at any other time, to stand idly by and allow wanton slaughter of innocents. And he offered support for the threat of force to prevent the theft of property as well. In Luke 11:21, Jesus said:

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted, and divides up his plunder.

This is the same Jesus who, in Luke 12:39, says, “If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” It’s the same Jesus who never criticized anyone for possessing a lethal weapon such as a sword, though he certainly condemned the initiation of force or the impetuous and unnecessary use of it.

In Jesus, Guns and Self-Defense: What Does the Bible Say?, Gary DeMar maintains that

Being armed and willing to defend ourselves, our family, and our neighbors is not being unchristian or even unloving. Self-defense can go a long way to protect the innocent from people who are intent on murder for whatever reason.

The Greenwood reporter’s errant perspective is not untypical of people who think they know Jesus and Christianity but spend more time criticizing them than learning about them. I see evidence of this all the time, most recently from a speaker at an April 2022 conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

“When it comes to the source of individual rights,” the speaker pontificated with misplaced confidence, “there are only three possibilities.” One, he said, is a Creator (God), which he summarily dismissed as a ridiculous, untenable proposition. The second is government, which he ruled out as equally ridiculous and untenable. The only logical option, he said, was “nature”—something which he suggested evolved out of nothing from nobody. As I listened with the largely student audience, I thought to myself, “This supposed expert hasn’t even considered a fourth option, namely, a combination of the first and third—which is to say that God, as the author of nature, is in fact the author of individual rights as well.”

The speaker added another uninformed dig at Christianity by claiming it was stupid for Jesus to ever suggest you should love your neighbor. “What if your neighbor is an axe-murderer? How much sense would that make?” he asked derisively. If he had known of the passages I cite above, he would have been embarrassed by his own ignorance. As a general principle, Jesus argued, you should love your neighbor but the same Jesus would urge you to arm yourself if your neighbor threatens your life or property.

In The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Time, Christian theologians Norman Geisler and J. P. Moreland write:

To permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.

When Elisjsha Dicken pulled out his gun to stop a shooting spree, he had every reason to believe he might attract the shooter’s aim and be killed himself. Fortunately, he was not, and he is among the living whose lives he saved.

If Elisjsha Dicken had been killed, the rest of us could at least take comfort in the words of Jesus as quoted in John 15:13. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Elisjsha Dicken is not only a Good Samaritan. He’s a very good one. Give him a medal.

Science is Affirming Creation, Not Accident by Lawrence W. Reed

What Does the Bible Say About Self-Defense?

Was Jesus a Socialist? by Lawrence W. Reed

AUTHOR

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. Reed is FEE’s President Emeritus, Humphreys Family Senior Fellow, and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty, having served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is author of the 2020 book, Was Jesus a Socialist? as well as Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism. Follow on LinkedIn and Like his public figure page on Facebook. His website is www.lawrencewreed.com.

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The Shroud of Turin Defies its Sceptics

Even though it failed a carbon-dating test 40 years ago, new findings suggest that the scientists were wrong.


In April 2022 new tests on the Shroud of Turin — believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ — dated it to the first century. This dating contradicted a 1980s carbon dating that suggested the Shroud was from the Middle Ages. Some people would have been surprised, but not anyone who had been following the build-up of evidence indicating the Shroud is authentic.

A total of four tests have now dated the Shroud to the first century. In addition, an immense body of other evidence suggests the cloth, which appears to carry an image of Jesus’s crucified body, is genuine.

Experiment

Debate about the Shroud has been going on for centuries, provoking heated exchanges, revealing a tortuous trail of evidence full of unexpected twists and turns, and prompting more unanswerable questions than any other artefact in history.

Only days before the new dating results were announced, one of the main players in the drama, British filmmaker David Rolfe, issued a million-dollar challenge to the British Museum to replicate the Shroud.

The Museum oversaw the carbon tests on the Shroud and Rolfe explained: “They said it was knocked up by a medieval conman, and I say: ‘Well, if he could do it, you must be able to do it as well. And if you can, there’s a one-million-dollar donation for your funds.’”

Rolfe’s challenge might have seemed like a stunt, but it was serious. He said if the museum accepted the challenge, he would place a million dollars in a legal holding account pending the outcome.

You would think if anyone could copy the Shroud, the British Museum could. It certainly has the resources: around a thousand employees, including research scientists, links to major universities — and I’m sure the museum would not refuse outside help.

So, was Rolfe’s bet risky?

Those familiar with the evidence would say no. Given all we now know about the Shroud of Turin, and the fact that no one has ever been able to copy it or even explain how it was made, Rolfe’s million dollars appears safe. The reason he and so many others are convinced the burial cloth is genuine is that there is a mountain of evidence supporting that conclusion.

One reason most people don’t share this view is that they seem to know as little about the Shroud as they do about carbon dating. They are not aware that, contrary to the popular idea that the Shroud is a fake, it has become, in the words of a number of researchers, “the single most studied artefact in human history”.

Solid science

The most recent verification of its authenticity came in April this year. A member of Italy’s National Research Council, Dr Liberato de Caro, used a new X-ray technique designed specifically for dating linen.

He used a method known as wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS), which he says is more reliable than carbon dating. He said this was because carbon dating can be dramatically wrong due to contamination of the thing being dated.

If you are one of those who know little about the Shroud, here are some basic details: It is a long strip of linen, covered in blood and carrying a faint image of the front and back of a dead man, apparently beaten and scourged, bleeding copiously from the scalp, and showing all the signs of Jesus’s crucifixion, including a lance wound to the heart. It first appeared publicly in western Europe in 1355 when it was put on display in France. The owners refused to say where they got it — understandable, given that it was probably stolen.

The Shroud’s sudden appearance set off the fiery debate that continues to this day. You may know that many books and articles have already been written. Over the years, I have read many of them, but none offered what I was looking for — an up-to-date introduction to the subject that was accessible to non-academics.

I couldn’t find one, so I decided to write it myself.

Overwhelming data

Soon, I felt like this was a mistake. They say the worst thing you can do to journalists is to provide them with too much information, and the information on the Shroud is very close to being too much. To get an idea of how much information is involved, search for “Shroud of Turin” on Google Scholar. You will get around 12,000 links.

Even a search on academia.edu turns up about 4,000 academic papers begging to be read. The oldest Shroud website, shroud.com, has among its extensive resources, one comforting list of a mere 400 “essential” scientific papers and articles. But even this is a lot if you are already struggling to get through books, videos and papers from academic conferences, podcasts and documentaries going back decades.

Most people, including myself (until recently), closed their minds to the Shroud when the 1988 carbon dating results were released. Those tests suggested the relatively high levels of carbon 14 on the cloth meant it came from around 1325 — give or take 65 years.

That sounds precise, but what most of us weren’t told was that carbon dating had been wrong many times, sometimes by as much as a thousand or more years, due to contamination of the article being dated. In the case of the Shroud, there is a long list of reasons it could be contaminated, including the fact that it has been handled by countless people, exposed to fire, water, repairs, and other materials capable of causing contamination.

Most interesting of all, as indicated by a growing body of evidence, its carbon levels could have been raised by the radiation that appears to be the most likely cause of the image it carries.

So, even though many people still assume the carbon date was the end of the story, it may be just the beginning. If, like me, you take the time to review the evidence, it wears you down. These days, if anyone asks me if I really think “that Shroud thing” could be Jesus’ burial cloth with his image on it, all I can say is: given the evidence, I can’t think what else it could be. I am open to being talked out of this view, but so far nobody has managed to do it.

Whatever your own view, following the trail of evidence is possibly the most fascinating and rewarding journey you will ever undertake. This is partly because the case for the Shroud does not hinge on a single fact — certainly not on the radiocarbon date. It involves many interlocking facts — a big picture painted by intriguing details. My experience is that the Shroud asks more unanswerable questions than anything on the planet.

Excerpted from Riddles of the Shroud with permission.

AUTHOR

William West

William West is a Sydney journalist. More by William West

EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Secularism: The Forgotten Factor in Falling Fertility

The decline in faith has precipitated a drop in procreation.


James McHenry is a lesser-known American Founding Father. A Scots-Irish Presbyterian born in County Antrim, Ireland, he came to the colonies in 1771, just five years before independence.

McHenry eventually became a military surgeon, signer of the Constitution and Secretary of War for Presidents Washington and Adams. Fort McHenry, of Star-Spangled Banner fame, bears his name. James McHenry was of the early American elite. He wrote:

“The holy Scriptures… can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness.”

Holy Scriptures? How unwoke can you get?

Are we to assume that McHenry was racist, “homophobic,” nativist or a bigot? Can you imagine a member of the Biden cabinet referencing holy Scripture? Why, that would be a violation of “separation of church and state,” the Jeffersonian doctrine intended to prevent government from meddling in matters of faith. Today that doctrine has been wholly transmuted, weaponised to eradicate religious expression from the public square.

A different century

McHenry wasn’t the only American Founder whose words would get him cancelled today. How about the “father of our country” George Washington? Here is what Washington told a gathering of Delaware Indian leaders:

You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.

A compilation of religious sentiments by early American leaders would consume more terabytes than MercatorNet can handle. Needless to say, the Founders were people of faith. Back then, the West was commonly referred to as Christendom. As far as I know, no one found that offensive.

What does any of this have to do with demography?

Well, according to the World Atlas, “American women reaching child-bearing age in 1800 had on average of seven to eight live births in the course of their reproductive life.” In 1800, America was mostly rural and practising Christian.

In the early 1800s, two overarching factors influenced family life. The first was faith. The Biblical injunction “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” (Genesis 9:7, KJV) was taken quite seriously.

Also, having children was sound economics. Children meant more hands on deck at the farm and family business. That was early American family planning.

From 1800, however, US fertility steadily declined, bottoming out in the 1940s. Then the postwar “baby boom” brought a 60% bump. The decline has since resumed, attributed to better public health (lower infant mortality), urbanisation, industrialisation, higher incomes and women in the workforce.

However, one tremendously significant reason for fewer children is usually omitted from demographic analyses: secularism.

What is secularism?

The term was coined c.1850 to denote a system which sought to order and interpret life on principles taken solely from this world, without recourse to belief in God and a future life. It is now used in a more general sense of the tendency to ignore, if not to deny, the principles of supernatural religion.
— The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

According to Merriam-Webster, secularism is indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.”

The US is today’s secularist imperium. Secularism is a major contributing factor, usually overlooked, for persistent below-replacement fertility worldwide.

It is no secret that, on average, religious folks have more children than the non-religious. Why? Quite often, people of faith seriously follow the Biblical injunction to go forth and multiply. They believe in salvation and are usually somewhat less egocentric and materialistic than the average modern Joe.

But today we are in the age of Economic Man, defined by Merriam-Webster as

… an imaginary individual created in classical economics and conceived of as behaving rationally, regularly, and predictably in his economic activities with motives that are egoistic, acquisitive, and short-term in outlook.

By adopting the model of Economic Man, Western societies abandoned believing that humanity’s intellectual, spiritual and moral essence were in the image of God, a view that had sustained them for at least 18 centuries. This stone-cold secularism would eventually lead to Communism and the many other atheistic ideologies we suffer from today.

Major General JFC Fuller, in volume 3 of his Military History of the Western World, posited that “the myth of Economic Man [was] the fundamental factor in Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism.”

We are also addicted to the Idea of Progress, defined by the web’s Conservapedia as

… a worldview mainly promoted by globalists and liberals that argues “that the human condition has improved over the course of history and will continue to improve.”[1]

It is closely associated with the concept that man is perfectible and at some point in the future will, in fact, be perfect. While popular in contemporary culture, this idea has several serious flaws.

Flawed indeed. Shallow belief in the inevitability of human progress and unlimited temporal advancement disregards the transcendent, giving rise to the “prosperity gospel” and rank materialism.

Many prosper, but post-World War II affluence is proving to be ephemeral. Something is lacking. That is why China popularises Confucius, Russia subsidises Orthodoxy and Hungary promotes Catholicism in hopes of boosting birthrates. The US mandates wokeism and relies on immigration.

Today politicians rarely invoke religious faith except in throwaway lines for public consumption. People made of sterner stuff like James McHenry and George Washington are vilified and cancelled, their names expunged and statues removed. What will tomorrow’s children know of their heritage?

Yes, we’re oh-so-modern, high tech, sophisticated and secular. Having children is uncool. Modernity is slowly but surely killing us. The idea of progress that venerates Mammon, radical environmentalism, egocentrism and wokeism has Homo sapiens on the path to extinction. But as the old saying goes, “Fish are the last to notice the water.”

AUTHOR

Louis T. March

Louis T. March has a background in government, business and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family… More by Louis T. March

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EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Be careful what you wish for: After Christianity come Wokery and Witchcraft

Radio host James Whale needs to think again about his desire to sweep Britain clean of traditional religion.


Acerbic British radio and podcast host James Whale is battling kidney cancer which appears to make him crankier than usual. In a recent column in The Express he ranted about religion.

“Islamist terrorism has raised its ugly head again, which prompts one big question in my mind,” he writes. “What is it about religion that drives people nuts?”

These atrocities are caused by “this religious obsession with an afterlife – and the idea in some faiths that if you do horrendous things to non-believers you will be rewarded in that afterlife.”

He concludes: “It surely is time that religion was put back in its box. Anybody should be allowed to believe anything they want – that is perfectly acceptable. But as for those religions that expect to be treated differently from everyone else – forget it. Perhaps the time has come for this mostly secular country … to separate church from state and to start by dissolving religion’s connection with the Royal Family?”

Mr Whale is not one of Britain’s profounder intellects, but he reflects the prejudices of his listeners. So it’s worthwhile unpacking his ideas.

My first observation is to thank him for allowing people to entertain religious beliefs in the privacy of their own heads. But authentic religion depends on social organisation, and if we are not allowed to talk about it – apart from criticising it, of course — we might as well live in North Korea, China or Cuba.

Perhaps Mr Whale thinks that with democracy, we would be safe from extremism. However, democracy did not arise “naturally”, but from the Judeo-Christian belief in free will.

Second, he mentions the Islamic terrorist but not his victim, Sir David Amess, a practicing Catholic. Sir David did not go around murdering people who did not agree with him; he was seen even by those who disagreed politically with him as a humane and generous man. In short, he died as he lived as a true Christian.

Third, if he is serious about condemning religious persecution, why not highlight the fact that the most persecuted religion worldwide is Christianity?

Fourth, Mr Whale’s religion is that there should be no religion. The world has experimented with this idea time after time in the last hundred or so years and the results have been less than satisfactory. Faith in human nature unguided by a transcendent system of religious belief has always led to disaster.

Thousands were exterminated in the French Revolution in the name of “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” many of them priests and religious. Hitler exterminated Christians as well as Jews in the name of race religion and promoted a kind of “eco paganism”. Stalin murdered millions in the name of atheistic communism.

Fifth, let’s take a look at what is replacing religion in Britain.

G. K. Chesterton said that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in everything – from critical race theory, wokeness and witchcraft. Just this week The Mirror profiled three witches who ply their craft on the internet and have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

The modern obsession with both witches and wokeness shows that Mr Whale’s project of ridding Britain of religion is doomed to failure. When we get rid of Christian saints and the angels we are left with the fallen angels, the bad spirits, and the alcoholic spirits that people need to dull the pain of their earthly existence. Persecution revives in the form of Twittermobs and cancellations.

Although humanists like Mr Whale claim to put human beings at the centre of their concerns, a closer look reveals that they advocate anti-human measures, notably abortion, assisted suicide/euthanasia and divorce, all justified by “compassion” – an idea they borrowed from Christianity minus the emphasis on the sanctity of life.

If we get rid of Christianity, we are not going to revert to a simpler, kinder time but to a new Dark Age of scientific barbarism — of utilitarian eugenics and population control. The Romans were highly civilised, and their methods of torture were highly sophisticated. If we try to get rid of God we will be left with Satan.

COLUMN BY

Ann Farmer

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St… More by Ann Farmer

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EDITORS NOTE: This MercatorNet column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

‘One Mosque Is Erected Every 15 Days in France, While One Christian Building Is Destroyed At the Same Pace’

My latest in PJ Media is a VIP article. I am happy to be able to offer you a 5% discount on becoming a VIP member at PJ Media. Just enter the code SPENCER when you sign up here.


Edouard de Lamaze, president of the Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux (Observatory of Religious Heritage) in Paris, is sounding the alarm about the rapid erosion of France’s cultural heritage. “One mosque is erected every 15 days in France,” he said recently, “while one Christian building is destroyed at the same pace. It creates a tipping point on the territory that should be taken into account.” Yes, it should be taken into account by anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who is concerned about the future of France. But it isn’t.

According to the Catholic News Agency, “Lamaze’s appeal for increased awareness came after a fire destroyed the 16th-century Church of Saint-Pierre in Romilly-la-Puthenaye, Normandy, northern France. The fire, deemed accidental, took place on April 15, exactly two years after the blaze that devastated Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.” What’s more, “Lamaze told CNA in an interview that in addition to one religious building disappearing every two weeks — by demolition, transformation, destruction by fire, or collapse — two-thirds of fires in religious buildings are due to arson.”

All this was going on, Lamaze noted, against a backdrop of incomprehension and indifference: “The current minister of culture is seeking to establish a protection charter, but the situation is extremely serious and, alas, I don’t see any real awareness growing, nor any sense of responsibility in the face of this crucial challenge for our national heritage.”

There is more. Read the rest here.

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The Decline of Christianity Since the Reformation

David Carlin: The decline of Christianity is found not just in those who claim no Christian faith, but also in those who claim to be liberal Christians.


Modern history (by which I mean the history of the western world since about the year 1500) tells many stories.  I suspect that these many stories are subplots in one big story, and for years I’ve been trying to guess what this one big story may be.  My guess (but it’s only a guess) is that the one big story is the story of how the western world has been trying to get rid of Christianity.

The story begins with the Protestant Reformation.  None of the reformers intended to do away with Christianity.  Just the opposite.  Regardless of anybody’s intentions, however, a divided Christianity would be easier to destroy than a united Christianity.

This divided Christianity led in the 16th and 17th centuries to the rise of skepticism, especially in France.  But skepticism, while it continues even to the present day to erode Christianity, is too purely negative a thing to replace the old faith.  And a replacement is needed.  You can’t just get rid of Christianity and leave the world with nothing to believe in.

Skepticism was succeeded by a more positive thing in the 18th century, Deism, which professed to hold on to the good elements of Christianity (afterlife, morality, etc.) while getting rid of its bad elements.  But Deism was too “thin” a thing to replace Christianity.  Besides, it stopped well short of the ultimate aim of anti-Christianity, namely the complete eradication of the old religion.

Deism helped bring about the French Revolution, which showed for the first time that a powerful state could be used as a tremendous anti-Christianity machine.

In the second half of the 19th century, there was a great intellectual movement on behalf of agnosticism.  But agnosticism was simply another name for the old skepticism, still too negative a thing to get the anti-Christianity job done.

In the 20th century, two gigantic anti-Christianity movements took the stage, and each of them came to control an enormously powerful state: Nazism and Communism.  The former intended to get rid of Christianity while thinly disguising its intention; it deceived many Christians who wanted to be deceived.  The latter didn’t stoop to disguise; it was quite frank about its intention.  Both of them did great damage to Christianity, and when they failed (Nazism in 1945, Russian Communism in 1991) they left behind them a Christianity that had been greatly weakened.

In the postwar period (1945-present) the western liberal democracies (U.S.A., U.K., France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain [after Franco], Portugal [after Salazar]) have been subject to a non-statist kind of anti-Christianity.  These countries all experienced, some of them sooner, some of them later, the growth of an anti-Christianity public sentiment.

These countries all experienced the gradual asphyxiation of Christianity by the gradual growth of anti-Christian feelings.  For decades the state played little or no part in this smothering process – though this has changed recently.

This liberal-democratic, anti-Christianity got a tremendous boost beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the coming of the sexual revolution.  This “revolution” was about sex – but it was about much more than sex.  Sexual restraint and even downright chastity had been an essential element of Christianity from its beginning in the first century AD.  Get rid of Christian sex morality, and you’re well on your way to getting rid of Christianity altogether.

Once the average person decides that Christianity has been wrong about fornication, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, etc. for almost 2,000 years, it will be relatively easy for that person to believe that Christianity has also been wrong about many other things – including all the articles of the Nicene Creed.

Many would-be Christians – I have in mind “liberal” Catholics and Protestants – believe it is possible to have a “new and improved” Christianity that embraces and endorses the values of the sexual revolution.  They are mistaken – as certain a priori considerations should have persuaded them decades ago, and as experience has abundantly demonstrated over the last fifty years.

Throughout the western world (the world that used to be called Christendom), including the United States, Christianity is in steep decline today.  Evidence of this decline is found not just in those who claim no Christian faith (the “Nones”).  It is also found in those who claim to be liberal Christians – which means that they have dropped most of Christianity’s orthodox “baggage.”  And it is also found in those who, while claiming to be orthodox, really don’t take their orthodoxy seriously.

Two questions:

  1. Does one have to be an atheist to be anti-Christianity? Strictly speaking, no. For instance, the Deists of the 18th century were anti-Christianity without being atheists.  But if you want to get rid of Christianity, it helps to be an atheist.  A lot, because atheism is the most thoroughgoing kind of anti-Christianity.  If you want to get rid of the old religion, why not go all the way?  Why not destroy the very foundation of Christianity?
  2. Does one have to be a supporter of abortion to be counted among the haters of Christianity? Yes. For the right to abortion – and not just the legal right but the moral right as well – is essential to the sexual revolution.  If we don’t have abortion as a back-up when mistakes are made or accidents happen, how can we have a moral regime of sexual freedom?

Practically speaking, we can’t.  Think about it.  If abortion were to be banned throughout America, the next thing you know we’d have people recommending chastity.  And once people recommend chastity, guess what? – they’ll start recommending Christianity.

Well, we can’t have that, can we?  And therefore we must make sure that abortion is legal and is considered to be morally unobjectionable.  Indeed we must make it a praiseworthy thing – the kind of thing which, like public education and police and fire protection, everybody who needs it should have free of charge.

For what it’s worth, that’s my reading of the last 500 years.

David Carlin

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

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EDITORS NOTE: This The Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. © 2020 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org. The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Notre Dame Professor Gabriel Said Reynolds falsely claims that Qur’an teaches only Allah should take revenge

The fact that Gabriel Said Reynolds, who demonstrates here that he is either abjectly ignorant or willfully dishonest about Islam, is a professor of theology at Notre Dame shows how much our nation’s universities (and the Catholic Church) are dominated by fantasy and wishful thinking rather than being willing to deal with unpleasant realities. Reynolds is an academic laden with honors, employed at Notre Dame and published in the New York Daily News, not because he speaks the truth, with which he is either unacquainted or unwilling to disclose, but because he tells people what they want to hear: that Islam, if only it were properly understood, is actually a religion of peace. How it came to be that so many Muslims misunderstand the religion they follow so devoutly, he does not bother to explain.

Meanwhile, would the New York Daily News ever publish a comparably lengthy theological defense of Christianity? Not on your life.

Anyway, to make his case that in Islam, vengeance belongs to Allah alone, Reynolds quotes a number of Qur’an verses, but he doesn’t even mention or attempt to explain away others that disprove his case. There is actually a great support, passed over in silence by Reynolds here, in the Qur’an and Sunnah for the death penalty for blasphemy. It can arguably be found in this verse: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.” (5:33)

But if you don’t think that verse justifies killing those who insult Islam, there is this: “Those who annoy Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this World and in the Hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating Punishment” (33:57)

Yes, he has cursed them both in this world and the hereafter. What does a curse in this world look like? Muslims are told to fight such people: “If they violate their oaths after pledging to keep their covenants, and attack your religion, you may fight the leaders of paganism – you are no longer bound by your covenant with them – that they may refrain” (9:12).

Not only that, but the Qur’an explicitly says that Allah will punish people by the hands of the believers: “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them and satisfy the breasts of a believing people, and remove the fury in the believers’ hearts.” (9:14-15)

There is more in the hadith. In one, Muhammad asked: “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” One of the Muslims, Muhammad bin Maslama, answered, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” When Muhammad said that he would, Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab).” Muhammad responded: “You may say it.” Muhammad bin Maslama duly lied to Ka’b, luring him into his trap, and murdered him. (Bukhari 5.59.369)

“A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.” (Sunan Abu-Dawud 38.4349)

Why doesn’t Gabriel Said Reynolds mention any of those passages?

“What radical Muslims get wrong about the Koran: Vengeance is reserved for God alone,” by Gabriel Said Reynolds, New York Daily News, March 1, 2020:

In the name of Allah, militant Muslims continue taking up arms against people they consider threats to their faith and way of life. But does it make theological sense for humans to pick up swords and guns to exact retribution in this life?

The Koran, the book those same Muslims purport to revere, says no….

The irony of blasphemy laws, and the tragedy of these attacks carried out in supposed defense of Islam, is that the Koran time and again insists that it is God’s right, and God’s right alone, to exact vengeance.

Allah does not need Muslims to step in and punish those who insult Him. In fact, Allah does not want Muslims to do so. The God of the Koran is clear: He is the only avenger of Islam.

The case of blasphemy laws in Islam is particularly peculiar in light of the example of Muhammad himself. The Koran describes how the unbelievers in his native city of Mecca disputed his claims of prophethood and insulted him.

Koran 68:51 describes how they accused him of insanity: “Indeed, the faithless almost devour you with their eyes when they hear this Reminder, and they say, ‘He is indeed crazy.’”

The Koran does not respond by demanding that the blasphemers be killed for their insolence. It simply affirms the claims of Muhammad.

Elsewhere in the Koran, the voice of God counsels Muhammad to be patient when faced with opposition. Koran 16:126 alludes to some persecution or affliction which Muhammad has suffered from the unbelievers.

The next verse, in response, suggests that Muhammad could strike back in moderation, but should simply endure the persecution patiently: “If you retaliate, retaliate with the like of what you have been made to suffer, but if you are patient, that is surely better for the steadfast.”

This does not mean that the idea of vengeance is foreign to the Koran. The question the Koran poses is not whether offenses against Islam and Muslims should be avenged, but who should do the avenging.

And the answer is consistent: “God.”

Remarkably, and if only Boko Haram and other Salafi-Jihadis would listen, the Koran even teaches this lesson specifically about Christians. In Sura 5, God asks some questions of Jesus about those who followed him, but Jesus does not demand that the wrongdoers be punished.

He leaves their fate in God’s hands: “If Thou chastisest them, they are Thy servants; if Thou forgivest them, Thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise.”

The same lesson is taught about Muslims who are unfaithful to the laws of Islam. In chapter 5, verse 95, the Koran describes the laws of the pilgrimage to Mecca (known as the Hajj). But as for he who breaks the rules, the Koran gives no worldly punishment: “God will take vengeance on him, God is all-mighty, Vengeful.”

So what does divine vengeance look like in the Koran? Allah punishes those who offend Him in hell. The Koran not only describes paradise in vivid colors (as a place with food, drink, and women), it also describes hell in gruesome detail.

Angels of punishment will strike the damned from the front and the back. The damned will be condemned to drink boiling water and eat from a tree named Zaqqum whose fruit is like the heads of demons.

The Koran clearly considers this punishment enough for an unbeliever. Whereas the standard schools of Islam teach that someone who leaves the religion, an apostate, is to be killed, the only punishment for apostasy spoken of in the Koran is hell: “’Did you disbelieve after you had believed? Then taste the chastisement for that you disbelieved!’” (Quran 3:106).

The Koran also teaches that God need not wait for the afterlife to punish unbelievers. He is the lord of the universe and can intervene when He chooses.

A number of chapters in the Koran tell a series of tales, dubbed “punishment stories” by scholars, in which unbelieving peoples are punished for rejecting the prophet who is sent to them. Among these prophets are Biblical figures including Noah, Lot, and Moses, and others who seem to come from Arabian lore with names like Hud, Salih, and Shuʿayb.

In each story it is not the Prophet but God who intervenes….

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

Maryland School Denigrates Christianity, Promotes Islam — Case gone to Supreme Court

A taxpayer funded public school in Maryland instructed its students:

“Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

“Islam at heart is a peaceful religion.”

Jihad is a “personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline.”

“To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped in Christianity and Judaism.”

“Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

Imagine the shock when 11th-grader at La Plata High School, Caleigh Wood, revealed this to her parents. More students and more parents need to actively need to get involved as Caleigh Wood did. She bravely stood up for her rights as a Christian. She stated that, as part of an assignment, she “was also required to profess in writing, the Islamic conversion creed, ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’” For refusing to concede to the sharia and standing “firm in her Christian beliefs”, Wood was punished for it and given a failing grade for non-compliance.

Her case has now gone to the supreme court. “The Thomas More Law Center has submitted a petition asking the high court to take up the case of student Caleigh Wood.” Its president, Richard Thompson warned:

Under the guise of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion.

Jihad Watch reported on May 19th that a Washington school district was caught promoting Islam for Ramadan through a CAIR initiative. Now lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter. Islamization happens rapidly if unnoticed and unchallenged. Parents need to be paying attention to what their children are being indoctrinated with and taught in schools.

“U.S. SCHOOL FAILS CHRISTIAN STUDENT FOR REFUSING ISLAMIC PRAYER”, World Net Daily, May 19, 2019:

The declarations could have been made by an imam in a mosque sermon.

“Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

“Islam at heart is a peaceful religion.”

Jihad is a “personal struggle in devotion to Islam, especially involving spiritual discipline.”

“To Muslims, Allah is the same God that is worshiped in Christianity and Judaism.”

“Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

The problem is that those statements were part of the instruction in a public school in Maryland, and one of the students in the classroom now is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to condemn such religious lessons funded by taxpayers.

The Thomas More Law Center has submitted a petition asking the high court to take up the case of student Caleigh Wood.

“As a Christian and 11th-grader at La Plata High School in Maryland, Caleigh Wood was taught that ‘Most Muslims’ faith is stronger than the average Christian.’ She was also required to profess in writing, the Islamic conversion creed, ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.’ Ms. Wood believed that it is a sin to profess by word or in writing, that there is any other god except the Christian God. She stood firm in her Christian beliefs and was punished for it. The school refused her request to opt-out or give her an alternative assignment. She refused to complete her anti-Christian assignment and consequently received a failing grade,” the legal team explained Wednesday.

Lower courts have given a free pass to the school district to teach Islam, and so TMLC filed the request with the Supreme Court to decide “whether any legal basis exists to allow public schools to discriminate against Christianity while at the same time promote Islam.”

“Under the guise of teaching history or social studies, public schools across America are promoting the religion of Islam in ways that would never be tolerated for Christianity or any other religion,” said Richard Thompson, TMLC’s president.

“I’m not aware of any school which has forced a Muslim student to write the Lord’s Prayer or John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’” he said.

“Many public schools have become a hot bed of Islamic propaganda. Teaching Islam in schools has gone far beyond a basic history lesson. Prompted by zealous Islamic activism and emboldened by confusing court decisions, schools are now bending over backwards to promote Islam while at the same time denigrate Christianity. We are asking the Supreme Court to provide the necessary legal guidance to resolve the insidious discrimination against Christians in our public schools,” he said.

Unresolved include whether or not schools can make preferential statements about one religion over another, and whether students may be required to assert religious beliefs with which they disagree.

And how do those concepts align with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?

The Charles County public schools and officials are defendants.

The filing explains the lower courts, despite the First Amendment’s requirements, “upheld the ability for [the school] to denigrate Petitioner Caleigh Wood’s faith and require her to write out statements and prayers contradictory to her own religious beliefs.”….

EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission.

When Christianity is Removed All Hell Breaks Out

bus-640x480Just recently, when perusing news stories, I happened upon a most heartbreaking story headline.  It proclaimed “London’s iconic red buses to declare glory to Allah.”  After getting over the initial shock I was a bit embarrassed.  Considering the massive evil in-roads the devoted Muslims have made making deep intrusions into British society for decades, I should not have been shocked one little bit.

The dangerous habit of western societies to sacrifice their own well-being just to appease those who have pledged to convert them or destroy them is miles beyond stupid. Britain’s largest Islamic charity says it wants to “break down barriers” and portray Islam positively by launching a new advertising campaign which will slap the phrase “glory to Allah on the sides of London buses.  Muslims reading the advertisements are told to “gather the rewards of Ramadan,” that they must donate Islamic relief.  That is a Muslim organization which used to have an account with banking giant HSBC.  The accounts were closed due to major “concerns that cash for aid could end up with Muslim terrorist groups throughout the world.”

Public transport has been chosen for the Islamic re-branding in London, Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, and Bradford.  All of the locations have large growing bigoted Muslim populations.  That the announcement of the new campaign came a day after London “foolishly” crowned it’s first Muslim mayor Sadig Khan.  Islamic Relief called it a “nice irony” that the two events coincided.  “Uh yeah”  Imran Madden, a British traitor “cough” convert to Islam and director of Islamic Relief’s United Kingdom branch said, “there is a lot of negativity around Muslims at the moment involving things such as counterterrorism issues.  “We want to change for the better the perception of Islam.  The London bus campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions.”

I could only laugh at Mr. Imran Madden’s little message about changing the perceptions of Islam.  Because, if Muslims were serious about changing the perception of Islam, they would have to stop being Muslims.  Because Muslims are instructed in the little quaran’ that it is permissible to be cruel to non Muslims.  Whether it is through DHIMMI status, where in Muslim cultures, non-Muslims are not allowed to build new places of worship, not possess arms; they have to allow Muslims to participate in their private meetings.  That is only three out of the 20 major restrictions against non-Muslims who reside where Muslims have taken over.

Ironically, Christian groups have fared less well when it comes to advertising on London buses.  For example, Former London mayor Boris Johnson stepped in to ban a positive message by a Christian organization in response to a pro-homosexual advertising Campaign.  After it is all said and done, Christian groups have for many years been denied access to purchase advertising space on London buses and elsewhere.

The sad thing about all of this that for too long, Christians have been a soft touch in London, throughout Europe, Africa and America.  Unfortunately, Christians have bought into the misnomer that loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek means allowing yourself to be abused and pushed around.

Both Great Britain and the United States at one time were greatly influenced by Christian principles.  Thus both nations were blessed beyond compare.  In fact, at one time the saying was “the sun never sets upon the British Empire.”  Her land holdings spanned entirely around the globe.  Before the ascent of the United States, Great Britain was the standard of the world.  But something very foolish happen in 1957.  Stupidity overtook wisdom and England gave up it’s major Seagate, the Suez Canal which opened the door to the ultimate destruction of British invincibility.  At the same time the Brits  turned away from the God of Christianity as fast as someone turns their nose away from a bottle of bleach.  Thus the decline of Britain became etched in stone.

In life, if you move your feet, you lose your seat.  Or if you give up your God given wisdom and authority, someone else becomes the boss.  It is plain to see that the good elements that paved the way toward building the great city of London and the once mighty empire of Britain have been replaced.  In their place are the deceptive, brutish and nation killing elements that are disintegrating one of the greatest civilizations in human history.  In many cases, both the British and Christians have no one to blame but themselves for the horrors British society is experiencing today.  Gosh do I miss the likes of the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher.

Until Britain and the United States decide to stand up for themselves and reconnect with the principles and the influences of the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob they will continue to be torn down by the followers of the death God of Islam.

Divergent: The Crucifixion of Christianity by Islam [+Videos]

I am a fan of the Divergent film series. The Divergent series is based on the Divergent novels by the American author Veronica Roth. The films show a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on “human virtues.”

The series focuses on those forms of governance that control the people for the greater good. It is about power. The power to control, the power to enslave and the power to create fear.

The power of human virtues were displayed this past week in black and white. The differences between Christianity and Islam are stark and undeniable. While Pope Francis was delivering his Easter ‘Urbi et Orbi‘ message, the Islamic State was busily crucifying Christians, slaughtering non-believers and Muslims alike.

What a stark contrast in human virtues.

One religion, Christianity, praying for the protection of those oppressed, the other, Islam, oppressing those who do not fully embrace it.

Robert Royal in his column “Belgium and ‘Our Values’” writes:

Anyone acquainted with history knows that it’s [Muslim attacks on Christianity] happened before. Once robust Roman and Christian North Africa, the birthplace of Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Sts. Cyprian and Augustine, Felicity and Perpetua, lacking a strong secular state after the fall of the Western Empire, disappeared under Muslim assault. Except for their moral and intellectual achievements, in today’s North Africa those great figures might as well never have existed.

[ … ]

[President] Obama often says that ISIS [the Islamic State] isn’t an “existential” threat. By that, he may mean that terrorists and their armies are, for now, too small to conquer or destroy us. But there are many ways to be destroyed – and one of them is by undermining those very “values” the president thinks are “right.” Sometimes the undermining comes, unintentionally, from the very people who think they are defending them.

Other nations may explain their values as they will. We Americas know – or used to – whence they come: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that men have been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

To better understand how truly divergent Christianity is from Islam please watch the following videos. One of Pope Francis delivering the Easter message, the second of the Islamic State delivering its Easter message:

Pope Francis delivering the Easter Urbi et Orbi on March 27th, 2016:

Islamic State video released in the wake of the attack on Brussels on March 22nd, 2016:

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The ‘Same God’ Question — Part 1

Why the wrong answer is killing the West, including America

Larycia Hawkins

Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins, poster-girl for the Same God Question.

Introduction: An Epistemological Malady

In his 2010 book, Revelation: Do We Worship the Same God? [1], Mark Durie addresses what is at stake when it comes to the “Same God Question”:

The traditional Islamic view is that if you want to know what the God of the Bible is like, then read the Koran. Not only must Muslims believe that ‘we worship the same God’, but this message is always a central component of the presentation of Islam to Christians and Jews.

[This ‘Same God’ message] provides the lynchpin of Muslims’ efforts to convert the ‘People of the Book’ to the faith of Muhammad. In addition, this belief, once accepted, can lead Christians to support Islamic perspectives in ways other than conversion. For example, embracing this Islamic doctrine wins a measure of respect and even support for Islam from Christians.

(Mark Durie, Revelation: Do We Worship the Same God?, pp 75-76; emphasis added.)

Durie’s clarity on the importance of answering properly the “Same God Question” makes our study of this question essential. In fact, I would argue that the “Same God Question” is equally important for atheists and agnostics to ponder. Some are understanding this, in spite of their predisposition against Christianity. For example, the high-profile atheist Richard Dawkins recently expressed his concern over the decline of Christianity, stating “Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.” His analysis will almost certainly cost him some allies on the Left. Consider these observations:

“There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings,” Dawkins said. “I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.”

In a rare moment of candor, Dawkins reluctantly accepted that the teachings of Jesus Christ do not lead to a world of terror, whereas followers of radical Islam perpetrate the very atrocities that he laments.

Because of this realization, Dawkins wondered aloud whether Christianity might indeed offer an antidote to protect western civilization against jihad.

The flip side to Dawkins’ point is that Western Civilization might indeed be warranted in protecting Christian culture against Islam and jihad.

This is such an obvious set of considerations and conclusions — all of which stem from a correct answer to the Same God Question — that it is astonishing to be confronted with the writings of those who have never considered this issue, or who have answered The Question incorrectly.

Perhaps nowhere do we find a better expression of  the general lack of awareness — and even admission of lack of interest — concerning this pivotal question than in Rod Dreher’s December 17, 2015 post, “Muslim God, Christian God”. I am thankful for his honesty in this article, even if I am deeply disturbed by it.

Dreher’s grappling with The Question was prompted by Wheaton College’s suspension of a professor over this very issue. Dreher cites Wheaton’s statement (emphasis added):

On December 15, 2015, Wheaton College placed Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins on paid administrative leave in order to give more time to explore theological implications of her recent public statements concerning Christianity and Islam…

[Her] recently expressed views, including that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, appear to be in conflict with the College’s Statement of Faith.

And so, we launch into the theological deep-end, with the “Same God Question” finally being brought out into the public square. You can read the whole thing, which for all its obvious sincerity is hopelessly muddled, but I think that’s part of Dreher’s point.

I commend Dreher for his public honesty, especially this section (emphasis added):

To be honest, I’ve never thought at all about whether Muslims pray to the same God as Christians. The Catholic Church teaches that they do, and that was my belief when I was a Catholic, though I never gave it a minute’s thought. I don’t know what I believe now, to be honest. We know that Muslims do not pray to the Holy Trinity — but this is also true of Jews.

Don’t Christians (most Christians) believe that Jews pray to the one true God, even if they have an imperfect understanding of His nature? If this is true for Jews, why not also for Muslims, who clearly adhere to an Abrahamic religion? This is why my tendency is to assume that Muslims do pray to the one true God, even though they have a radically impaired view of Him.

But how far do we go with that?

How far indeed!

The early Christian Church fathers would (and did) have plenty to say about this, including a vigorous denial — based on the Hebrew and New Testament Scriptures — of the statement that Islam is an “Abrahamic religion.”

More from Dreher:

I’m not sure what I think. I mean, I assume, in charity, that people who intend their prayers to be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are praying to the true God, whatever they lack in theological understanding. But again, I’ve not given this much thought.

How about you?

Again, I appreciate Rod Dreher’s honesty, and I think a great many people are in the same boat as he. They don’t know what they think, and have never given it much thought.

Dreher confesses one or the other epistemological malady five times.

Five times. In three paragraphs.

In our age of genocide against Christians by Muslims in Africa and the Middle East, the global war on Christians by Islam, the collapse of Christianity in Europe, and the global rise of Islam and stealth jihad everywhere, for sincere Christians to not have ever thought about the “Same God” issue, and to not be sure what they think about it, is deeply, deeply troubling.

Yet as we see from the constant stream of statements from Christian bishops, leaders and writers urging “greater solidarity with Islam<“, embracing Muhammad as “a prophet” who “brought love, peace, and much more” to the world, and similar affirmations, the avoidance of The Question is an epistemological malady not merely of the average Christian in the pew, but of church educated, elite and shepherds as well. Political leaders look to such positions as grounding their policies towards Muslims and the religion of Islam in general. And the public policies justified by such Islam-embracing pronouncements provide an open door for Islam to advance its influence and control throughout the West. Indeed, this has been going on for decades now.

This must be addressed, and reversed, if Western leaders are to stand a chance of articulating a coherent policy to protect and preserve our civilization, and see it through the new century.

Dreher asks on his blog, “How about you?”  Therefore, I decided to put some effort into this, especially as my own 2010 book deals with the “Same God” question at some length.

The answer to this question has, I believe, not only temporal but eternal implications, which is why I opened Chapter 1 of my book, Facing IslamOn Religious Dialogue — with this quote:

“Can any one of us be silent if he sees that many of his brethren simultaneously are walking along a path that leads them and their flock to a disastrous precipice through their unwitting loss of Orthodoxy?”  — Metropolitan Philaret of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, 1969

Of course, in the context of this article I am speaking of Christian “orthodoxy” with a lower-case “o”. So, from a theological position, I will be appealing to traditional Christian foundations common to Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Coptic Orthodox (and shared by Oriental Christians), and Islam’s position vis a vis Christianity.

Next up, Part 2: Allah’s Theological Jihad against Christianity

[1] Alas, Revelation is out of print (with used copies fetching prices of $160 and up on Amazon!), but Dr. Durie has updated his presentation on this issue in a new book, Which God?: Jesus, Holy Spirit, God in Christianity and Islam, in which I was unable to find the quote I selected for my opening citation.

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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