In the early 20th century, around 45% of Ethiopia was covered by forests. Due to population pressure and encouraged by the Communist regime in power from 1974 through 1991, which nationalised the land and distributed it to people who cleared forests for subsistence farming, now only 5% of the land is forested.
When you see a forest in Ethiopia today, the odds are there’s a church in the middle of it. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in Sub-Saharan Africa, dating from A.D. 333, when Christianity was proclaimed the state religion. For much of its history, the church was administered as a branch of the Coptic Church of Alexandria, Egypt, but became independent in 1959, with its own patriarch.
An article in the current issue of Nature, “Biodiversity thrives in Ethiopia’s church forests” describes how “[t]he church, to which more than half of Ethiopians belong, views the natural forest as a symbol of heaven on Earth, where every creature is a gift from God and needs its habitat” has preserved more than 35,000 forests surrounding its churches.
Ecologists studying the biodiversity in these oases are helping churches protect their forests from encroachment by the neighbouring population and their animals. They’re building walls.
This is the last of a series. Yes; I know it is 2019; this is late because government shutdown. I will provide an index to the other entries in a comment. I have been posting periodically on the hostile coverage of Evangelicals on the part of Big News Media. It is clear that a large driving force in the hostile media accounts was Donald Trump. Big Media has sought to divide Evangelicals from President Trump. They sought to divide Evangelicals from each other, they trashed Evangelicals at every opportunity, and primarily they sought to convince Evangelicals not to vote for President Trump or for any politician who expressed support for President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe it was hypocritical for Christians to support President Trump. They wanted Evangelicals to believe that Republicans were all going to lose badly so it was a waste of time to vote. I don’t know how much success they actually achieved, but they were hard at work to accomplish real voter suppression, while spouting accusations of voter suppression at Republicans.
The cascade of articles seemed to abate, oddly, during the runup to the midterm elections. That was primarily because all of Big Media was in full hair-on-fire excitement over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. They got themselves worked up real good, anticipating a major defeat for President Trump, and they focused all their energy on that. Other issues were pushed aside. Then, with about two weeks before election day, they resumed running attacks on Evangelical voters.
There was nothing really notable. It was just the usual stuff that I have been observing in nine previous posts in 2018.
I did observe some interesting postmortems about the awfulness of mass media news in the runup to the midterm elections. My favorite media critics at GetReligion put up the best ones. They are putting a happy face on the field of journalism. Mostly they are explaining to Evangelicals just why they have been trashed so badly for years, and attributing the problem to ignorance rather than malice.
In part, I see their point. Journalists as a group are very ignorant when it comes to matters of religion. While 80 percent of Americans generally say they “believe in God,” this is only true for 20 percent of journalists. In comparison to average Americans, journalists are three times as likely to say they are Atheist, and five times as likely to say they are Agnostic. Journalists either grew up without religion at home, or in homes with mixed religions, or else they are openly hostile to the faith of their parents.
Journalists do not recognize religious jargon and do not understand the differences between religious groups. Ignorance on their part can go a long way to explaining a lot of bad reporting on religious people and religious issues.
But there is a lingering matter of open hostility on the part of journalists expressed towards people of faith. This explains some anti-Catholic bias and general anti-Christian bias.
As Leftists, journalists also share a hostility to all conservatives. This shows up as the “pew gap.” The pew gap is a phenomenon that first got talked about in the 1980s. People who attend regular worship services are more likely to vote Republican. People who rarely attend worship are more likely to vote Democrat. This divide has been increasing for forty years.
In terms of journalism, the upshot is that religious people are usually on the opposite political side from Atheists and agnostics. Which is, I think, the root of so much hostile coverage of Evangelicals. For most journalists, politics is their religion.
Journalists howled when President Trump labeled them the “Enemy of the People.” I think that label is accurate. They are certainly the Enemy of traditionally religious People. They are the Enemy of conservative People.
Native American Drummer Nathan Phillips was very busy on Saturday. After a full day of protesting and drumming at the “Indiginous Peoples March,” which had been scheduled for right after the March for Life on Friday in hopes of garnering some attention, he was the toast of media on Saturday. Leftist “journalists” clamored all day for interviews. He said some things to some media outlets, and he said some other things to other media outlets. It would be really interesting to put together a montage of his contradictory statements, but that is not my purpose for this post.
I just searched Google News for “Nathan Phillips.” There were lots and lots of hits. Buried way down at the 42nd place in the search results was an item that reported on his activities on Saturday evening. No, it was not in a mass media outlet, it was a story from a small conservative niche media outlet. Catholic News Agency (yes, the little guys, not the National Catholic Register) broke a story about a protest event that was led by the intrepid “elder” of the Omaha Nation.
Phillips led a group of about 20 who started to enter the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC). Since the evening mass was in progress they were stopped by security guards who ran to close and lock the doors. They pounded on the doors for a few minutes, and drummed on their drums. Then Phillips made a statement.
Just a typical Saturday evening in Washington, DC, I suppose, which is a magnet for all sorts of crazies. But you would think that since the entire country is still arguing over the events of Friday in which Phillips marched into a group of high school kids and beat his drum in the face of one of them, you might think some mass media outlet would pick up the story.
Nope. Crickets. It doesn’t help their narratives.
The Enemy of the People were very aptly dubbed “the drive-by media” by Rush Limbaugh over 20 years ago. They mangled the story, fueled social media hysteria that got the kids and their parents doxxed, threatened, with enough threats to the Diocese to get their school as well as Diocesan offices closed for security reasons.
Then when it turned out that there was video evidence of how badly wrong their reporting was, they dropped the story. None of them ran the item about Phillips’s Saturday evening attempt to disrupt worship at the Basilica. As near as I can tell, the only legacy media outlet to cover this story is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and I only found them because the media critics at GetReligion linked to them.
If any other legacy media carried this story, Google is making sure we don’t know about that.
Big Media is a thoroughly Leftist project, and, as such, an anti-American project. They are to be scoffed and mocked at every opportunity. They pretend to do journalism. What they actually do is serve as the propaganda operation of the Progressive movement.
Since the Church of Rome is America’s largest faith group, everyone ought to have a little understanding about the important parts of the scandals that are rocking the Catholic Church. This is a big deal that will affect most of the culture wars and will spill over into politics. Of course, Big Media won’t cover any part of this except the parts that affect politics, and they can be relied on to bury the parts that embarrass the Left. So, here is a long post by a schismatic Lutheran to explain some of the distress in the Catholic Church.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops scheduled a conference last November, intended to get serious about setting up a monitoring and checks and balances system to address the sexual scandals in their own ranks. The lay Catholics, with the whole world watching, had been catching on that there were priests who had committed sexual sins and who had disappeared with some vague words about penance. Then it started coming out that bad priests had simply been moved around, in most cases with their new diocese unaware of their sexually sinful past. It turned out that this had happened in an astonishingly large number of cases, which became clear when the Pennsylvania Attorney General released a long and damning report on an investigation into sexual sins by priests. What really frosted the lay Catholics was that bishops who had preached about the need for openness and clarity and penance and oversight and confession and such, turned out to be the men who had deliberately hid the bad cases, covered for them, and in some cases put sexual predator priests into positions where they could repeat their bad behaviors.
If you are a Catholic who has been paying attention to this stuff, then scroll down to the heading called GetReligion. Most of the next couple of pages is background info.
American bishops put on hold
The USCCB assembly met two months ago with the expectation that they were going to vote on two action items. These were standards of accountability for bishops and a special commission for receiving complaints against bishops. This was part of several initiatives intended to work out a process for improved monitoring/oversight on matters of ecclesial discipline, to make sure that penances were concomitant with the infraction, that real crimes were promptly reported to police, and that violators who were likely to repeat their offense did not get placed into circumstances with future temptations, and that priests so placed would be subject to follow-up counseling and monitoring.
But an odd thing happened when the conference opened. The first thing was that a surprise letter from Pope Francis was read that told them to take no action on the topic. Pope Francis, you see, is planning a super conference in February that will be a global conference to take up such issues for all the world’s Catholic bishops. It would not do for the Americans to get out in front.
A letter that had gone from the Vatican to the USCCB President, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, was recently leaked to the Associated Press. It reveals that DiNardo had been slow to provide information to the Vatican, and this made the Vatican position easier to justify. It makes sense that the Vatican would want more time to consider what the Americans were up to, since it could have ripple effects for ecclesial canon law throughout the Catholic world.
Scandal of 2002 – 2005
In the late 1980s there were a couple of scandals involving sexual sins by predator priests. A couple more were made public in the early 1990s, generating some media buzz. It was a great excuse for some Catholic bashing and some Christian bashing. This scandal got mashed up with other scandals, such as revelations about poor treatment of indigenous peoples by Catholic missions, and a general apology for past bad behaviors was made for several scandals by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
Then a blockbuster scandal became a media sensation following an exposé by the Boston Globe in 2002. They produced a long special report on over a hundred victims of one bad priest, plus other victims of sexual misconduct by other Boston area priests. They followed that up with a survey of sexual scandals involving Catholic priests from all over the world. It sparked a media feeding frenzy that kept the Catholic Church in the spotlight for three years.
After three years of solid media attention, the issue went away. It just vanished. It was only a few of us highly-engaged culture warriors who figured out why. Stay tuned.
Pope Francis, friend of homosexuals
Pope Benedict XVI abdicated his position in early 2013. Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina was elevated to the “Throne of St. Peter” that year. He has given conservatives indigestion ever since. Of particular interest to this story is his friendly and accommodating posture towards homosexuality. You just knew we were going to get around to homosexual priests, didn’t you?
Pope Francis is famously squishy when it comes to traditional doctrines on all sorts of social matters. This has won him favorable treatment by mass media (cover of Rolling Stone, Time “Person of the Year 2013,” etc.). One of the first big instances of his papacy involved a throw-away line he said to a clutch of reporters on his plane as he returned to the Vatican from World Catholic Youth Day 2013. Pope Francis said (speaking about priests) “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” The media exploded with awful distortions.
There were some really unfortunate media accounts predicting that Pope Francis would reverse thousands of years of doctrinal positions on homosexuality and other sexual sins. Pope Francis coyly rebuked some of the excess. Subsequently he has done some things that made some observers call him a “homophile.” For example, in 2017 he appointed Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia as President of the Pontifical Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. That is not so much a scandal as an opportunity for more whispering.
Scandals of 2018
In April and October last year, Pope Francis made a trip to Chile for some damage control involving sex scandals. He de-frocked (“laicized”) four priests. He spoke with a homosexual man who had been a victim of a predator priest. Pope Francis said some happy-talk things to soothe the man, and this got reported and caused a little dust-up within the ranks of conservative Catholic bloggers. Since that is not America, you probably never heard about it. I only bring it up to note that the Catholic Church has problems with homosexual priests all over the world.
In America, two separate sex scandals rocked the Catholic summer.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, age 87, was removed from priestly office last June by Pope Francis because of charges of sexual misconduct. A priest was being tried for sexual misconduct. He was defending himself by saying that he had been introduced to sex and sexual predatory ways by McCarrick back in the early 1970s when McCarrick was serving as secretary to Cardinal Cooke and the victim was a boy of 17. Then a couple of priests said that other people had accused McCarrick of sexual misconduct, and that they had been kept silent with settlement awards.
Then it turned out that it had long been known that McCarrick had been a sexual predator for a very long time. He had been pressing seminarians for sexual favors for decades. Then it came out that Pope Benedict XVI had found out about McCarrick and had instructed him to remove himself from priestly duties, from involvement with seminaries, and from public appearances. But McCarrick had ignored his instructions and then was “rehabilitated” by Pope Francis.
This really blew up in mid-July when the New York Times dug into McCarrick:
In 2000, Pope John Paul II promoted Archbishop McCarrick to lead the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., one of the most prestigious posts in the Catholic Church in America. He was elevated to cardinal three months later.
At least one priest warned the Vatican against the appointment. The Rev. Boniface Ramsey said that when he was on the faculty at the Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in New Jersey from 1986 to 1996, he was told by seminarians about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual abuse at the beach house. When Archbishop McCarrick was appointed to Washington, Father Ramsey spoke by phone with the pope’s representative in the nation’s capital, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal nuncio, and at his encouragement sent a letter to the Vatican about Archbishop McCarrick’s history.
By August most Catholic watching was diverted to a different scandal that had erupted in late July.
The Attorney General of Pennsylvania released a report on an investigation into sexual crimes by Catholic priests. The numbers were staggering. Initially it sounded like sexual mayhem by a majority of priests. Then things quieted down when it turned out that it was a report that summarized prosecutions, settlements and “credible allegations,” over a period of decades. The press release from the Attorney General gave this summary of findings from the grand jury:
301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.
Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”
Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.
Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children, and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.
This truly ignited a media feeding frenzy. It also prompted other states to launch investigations of their own. People came out from all over with their own stories of abuse. Then, just as quickly as it had erupted and claimed all the media air, this scandal dropped out of the public conversation, almost as abruptly as the previous “pedophile priests” scandal of 2002-2005.
Enemy of the People
First, it turned out that there are only about 64 of the three hundred priests who are still alive. Most of these cases are really old. Then it came out that the overwhelming majority, all but a few dozen, of the victims, were males ages 13 to 18 at the time of the abuse.
Yes, this is similar to the previous scandal. When they learned it was not “pedophilia,” but homosexuals preying on minor teen boys, Leftist mass media lost interest.
Leftist mass media cried “pedophile priests! Pedophile priests!” until traditionalist Catholics started to get some traction with their push-back, and then media dropped the story before they had to run any corrections.
Just like Cardinal McCarrick. Since the predatory misconduct was all homosexual, then it did not help Leftist narratives to report on the scandal. After some hystrionical Catholic bashing, the story quickly dropped out of sight.
Of course, by late August, the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh started taking all the oxygen out of the journalistic world. Between Kavanaugh and the mid-term election campaigns, it was easy for news media to drop the Catholic scandals.
Bad Boy Bishops
The really big scandal in all of this was the way Catholic bishops had kept it all under wraps. They knew about homosexual predator priests and covered up for them, hid them, hired lawyers to quickly bring aggrieved victims into settlements that featured non-disclosure agreements, moved bad priests around, and hid the records. They were afraid such matters would damage the church, but in the end what they did was far more damaging.
Pope Francis apologizes
On 20 August 2018, Pope Francis apologized in a 2,000 word letter [addressing the Pennsylvania] grand jury report confirming that over 1,000 children were sexually abused by “predator priests” in Pennsylvania for decades, often covered up by the Church.
“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives … We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them … The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.”
The Pope said the church was developing a “zero tolerance” policy on abuse (which he called “crimes”) and cover-ups. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke emphasized that the letter was not about incidents in a specific geographic area but relevant worldwide.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò
Archbishop Viganò had served for ten years as the head of personnel for the Vatican when he was elevated to Secretary General of Vatican City. He made a name for himself by cleaning up finances and installing better procedures for checking and auditing. In a really mysterious episode, a letter he had written about apparent corruption was leaked to the press, prompting a public shaming in which he was said to be embarrassingly wrong by three higher-ups in the Curia. Vatican watchers took different sides, and some said it was all over personality clashes. Then the higher-ups prevailed and Pope Benedict XVI assigned Archbishop Viganò as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in 2011.
Viganò retired in 2016 at the age of 75 and returned to Italy.
On August 25, a damning letter from Archbishop Viganò appeared. It broke in Italy. It also hit the English-speaking Catholic blogosphere, because Archbishop Viganò had copied his letter to a little pro-life blog and aggregator in Toronto. I posted about LifeSiteNews back in the fall, mostly about how they were being harmed by Facebook and other Silicon Valley tech giants. Here is a part of Viganòs letter:
To dispel suspicions insinuated in several recent articles, I will immediately say that the Apostolic Nuncios in the United States, Gabriel Montalvo and Pietro Sambi, both prematurely deceased, did not fail to inform the Holy See immediately, as soon as they learned of Archbishop McCarrick’s gravely immoral behavior with seminarians and priests. Indeed, according to what Nuncio Pietro Sambi wrote, Father Boniface Ramsey, O.P.’s letter, dated November 22, 2000, was written at the request of the late Nuncio Montalvo. In the letter, Father Ramsey, who had been a professor at the diocesan seminary in Newark from the end of the ’80s until 1996, affirms that there was a recurring rumor in the seminary that the Archbishop “shared his bed with seminarians,” inviting five at a time to spend the weekend with him at his beach house. And he added that he knew a certain number of seminarians, some of whom were later ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Newark, who had been invited to this beach house and had shared a bed with the Archbishop.
The office that I held at the time was not informed of any measure taken by the Holy See after those charges were brought by Nuncio Montalvo at the end of 2000, when Cardinal Angelo Sodano was Secretary of State.
Likewise, Nuncio Sambi transmitted to the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, an Indictment Memorandum against McCarrick by the priest Gregory Littleton of the diocese of Charlotte, who was reduced to the lay state for a violation of minors, together with two documents from the same Littleton, in which he recounted his tragic story of sexual abuse by the then-Archbishop of Newark and several other priests and seminarians. The Nuncio added that Littleton had already forwarded his Memorandum to about twenty people, including civil and ecclesiastical judicial authorities, police and lawyers, in June 2006, and that it was therefore very likely that the news would soon be made public. He therefore called for a prompt intervention by the Holy See.
In writing up a memo on these documents that were entrusted to me, as Delegate for Pontifical Representations, on December 6, 2006, I wrote to my superiors, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Substitute Leonardo Sandri, that the facts attributed to McCarrick by Littleton were of such gravity and vileness as to provoke bewilderment, a sense of disgust, deep sorrow and bitterness in the reader, and that they constituted the crimes of seducing, requesting depraved acts of seminarians and priests, repeatedly and simultaneously with several people, derision of a young seminarian who tried to resist the Archbishop’s seductions in the presence of two other priests, absolution of the accomplices in these depraved acts, sacrilegious celebration of the Eucharist with the same priests after committing such acts.
Leftist Catholic defenders of Pope Francis and the Lavender Mafia went into full character assassination mode. Archbishop Viganò went into hiding.
Viganò has since released two additional letters, from his hiding place, defending himself and describing correspondence that he says vindicates him. The letters he references have not been produced.
In the case of the current Catholic disgrace, Leftist mass media is all on one side. They want to trash the Catholic Church as home to “pedophile priests” while hiding the fact that the scandal is actually a homosexual scandal. Mass media love Pope Francis and act to trash anyone who says anything that makes Pope Francis look bad.
On the other side are intrepid traditionalist Catholic bloggers. They are outgunned, overmanned, overwhelmed, and demoted, deplatformed, censored, slandered and libeled. It takes real determination to cut through the noise with their message.
I have found that the best way to follow any major story that centers on religion is to monitor the media critics at GetReligion.org. These are mostly “pro-life Democrats,” and they are Christian journalists who have focused on religion stories for many years. Their focus has been to observe on the journalistic failures in mass media news reporting that can be attributed to journalists simply not having the background, or not understanding the jargon, or not caring about whether they get the details right, when it comes to religious issues. At GetReligion.org I frequently see not only where and how the journalists failed, but then I also get correct information and links to the best-quality reporting on any religious issue.
Back in the spring when the Cardinal McCarrick story first came out, there was a really interesting post at GetReligion by Julia Duin. She had wanted to write about McCarrick the sexual abuser for many years, but could not get any sources willing to go on record:
I ran into similar blockages everywhere. There were priests and laity alike for whom McCarrick’s predilections were an open secret, but no one wanted to go after him. I heard about various settlements but couldn’t confirm the details. No newspaper can publish such explosive accusations with only anonymous sources and no court documents to back it up.
Various Catholic friends advised me to let it go. “What difference does it make now?” they’d say. “McCarrick is retired.” The archdiocese was represented by a powerful law firm. Did I want to take that on?
After I was laid off in 2010, I sent copies of my files to another reporter on the East Coast so he could have a go at cracking this story. He too ran into the same barriers: People who refused to go on the record and there was always the threat of a lawsuit should he get one detail wrong.
One thing I learned from GetReligion.org was that Theodore McCarrick had a golden rolodex, and had been a very large fundraiser for all sorts of Catholic projects in a variety of locations involving lots of wealthy Catholic movers and shakers and touching on over a dozen major Catholic missions/charities.
The lead guy at GetReligion is Terry Mattingly, who writes a weekly newspaper column for the Universal Uclick Syndicate. He also does a podcast called “Crossroads.” He had a really interesting discussion about Pope Francis’s upcoming big international assembly of bishops. Mattingly makes a lot of sense most of the time.
What to expect
In the podcast Mattingly discusses the recent resignation of top Vatican spokesman Greg Burke with Todd Wilkins, the “Crossroads” M.C.. (They decided that Burke has a news background rather than marketing, and he doesn’t want to be unable to return to journalism, which he probably would be if he continued in his current position through the upcoming assembly.)
Mattingly said to expect that the assembly is very likely to focus on the grave sin of sexual abuse of children. There are a few dozen actual cases of children under age 12 who were abused, and there are a few cases in which girls were abused. Expect the whole assembly to focus on those cases. As much as possible, the entire proceedings will be engineered to avoid the word “homosexual.” The sex of victims will seldom be mentioned. There will be lots of room for journalists to cover the event without ever noting that the core of these scandals is homosexuality in the priesthood. Unchaste acts between consenting adults will not be mentioned. And you won’t find them saying out loud that the age of majority in Catholic canon law is sixteen, not eighteen.
In short, expect a whitewashing. Surprised? Probably not; we have all grown quite cynical, haven’t we?
Hey, gang, we are going to celebrate the Festival of the Birth of Jesus on December 25th this year. We are going to join with all Western Christians and all the saints who have gone before us for the past 1900 years and more. Now, probably on a facebook page near you, sometime this Advent season you will see someone telling you how the Christians selected the date of December 25th by appropriating the date of a Pagan festival. That is a crock, and an anti-Christian slander, and this article is to explain why.
Most of you plain don’t care whether Christians appropriated a Pagan date. This is the typical reaction from Christians. We don’t really think that there is anything special about the date, it is just the traditional time for an annual celebration of the Nativity miracle. And, since we believe that mankind is corrupted by sin, and because we are all aware that church leaders have let us down on many occasions, we do not find this tale to be particularly troubling, and it sounds believable. So, Christians are generally not disconcerted by this tale, and we generally accept it without question.
Unfortunately, this is the sort of deference on the part of Christians that allows anti-Christian falsehoods to proliferate. Many Christians, such as G.K. Chesterton, accepted this tale as true. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Christmas (which was written in 1908) mentions this theory with the remark that it is “plausible.” Lots and lots of Christians have simply accepted this anti-Christian falsehood, mostly because it is considered an unimportant detail.
There is much to say regarding this anti-Christian slander, so I will provide some long-winded information and some links for anyone who is interested, or who is cornered by someone who finds this particular assault on the traditional Christmas story to be troubling.
Anti-Christians have said that the date of December 25th was deliberately picked to coincide with a Roman Pagan celebration. There are several versions, but here are the two most popular ones: one says that it co-opted a solstice celebration, just getting the date off by a couple of days, and the other says it was to co-opt a festival for Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun god). Both versions are falsehoods that keep going around on the internet.
First, neither the Greeks nor the Romans had a solstice festival before Sol Invictus. Sometimes I have seen anti-Christians on the internet raise the fact that other Pagans definitely did, but that does not hold up. There is no evidence that early Christians were in the business of co-opting dates or practices from the surrounding Greek Pagan culture (they opposed it in many ways), and, even if they were, they certainly would not have gone about picking dates from some far-away Pagan culture.
The second version also fails, on the basis that the Sol Invictus festival was initiated long after the Christians had agreed that December 25th is the most likely date for the Nativity. The Christians arrived at the December 25th date by completely independent reasoning that had nothing to do with any December events.
The Sol Invictus theory was a speculation by a 12th-century writer, and it was accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike as possible and plausible; in those days it was extremely difficult to access the sort of historical records that would have shed light on this theory. This theory was reported later as fact by a Protestant who was using it as a smear against the Roman Catholic Church. It was spread by anti-Catholic Protestants. It has been picked up and used since the Enlightenment by anti-Christians of all sorts, and it gets spread today on the worldwide web by many who seek to undermine the teachings and traditions of orthodox Christians, both Catholic and Protestant.
Early Christian thinking
The Christians of the second century discussed the likely dates for several events in the life of Jesus, in the absence of precise dating in the Gospels. The matter that got the most discussion was the time of the Crucifixion, which was important for dating the Easter festival that commemorates the Resurrection. They were looking to establish the most appropriate date for this important feast, and were employing a Jewish tradition that held that prophets died on the same date that they were either born or conceived.
The short version of the reasoning is: that before John the Baptist was born, when his father Zechariah received his vision, he was serving in the Temple. From Luke chapter 1:
8 Now while [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. …
18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
The early Christians reasoned that if Zechariah could not be looked in on, then he must have been in the Most Holy Place, behind the veil, and so the event must have occurred during the annual festival of the Day of Atonement, which takes place in September. This was corroborated by a separate line of reasoning that was based on the rotation of the priests, and informed by a comment found in Josephus to backtrack and learn that Zechariah’s division of priests was serving in September.
If Elizabeth conceived John in September, then it would have been March when Mary conceived Jesus:
26 In the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
They set the Feast of the Annunciation as March 25. Nine months later is December 25. This was established long before the first Feast of Sol Invictus. Clement of Alexandria wrote about it near the year 200 AD, as did Hippolytus of Rome. It appears from their writings that the date had been established prior to their day. Sol Invictus was first decreed by Emperor Aurelian in 274 AD.
Here is an excerpt from an article by William Tighe:
Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.
And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians.
We have just had a big thread about the Catholic Church and it has brought something into focus for me. I do not believe the modern world would have happened without the Reformation. The Catholic Church supported Monarchy, centralized control, and a few men accumulating power.
As conservatives we talk about Scottish and French Enlightenments. Well, one was in a Catholic country and one was not. We know how they turned out. Northern Europe, with its Protestant Work Ethic has long been less corrupt in function that Southern, Catholic, Europe. Capitalism as we understand it was born in Northern Europe, with the Dutch, and later spread to England. Would a Catholic England have taken it up?
Further, it was primarily Protestants who settled America at first. The idea of religious tolerance was born from the friction of different Protestant faiths. Granted, it was also born of that fact there was a Church of England, but the marriage of Church and State is something that Church inherited from the Catholic Church, and America continued the Protestant move away from it. I do not believe that any such thing would have happened in a Catholic dominated America. Indeed, since the Catholic Church supported the Divine Right of Kings, it is hard to imagine that America ditching Kings at all. Maybe, even, not to rebel, since no matter how bad the King, rebelling is in violation of God’s law. Then again, the Catholic French did rebel against their King, so maybe those Americans would have too. One hopes with better results. In England, of course, there was a civil war over that Right. Would that have happened if the nation was still Catholic?
The Reformation also put pressure on the Catholic Church to reform. They don’t engage in people buying their way into Heaven anymore (I know buying out of Purgatory, but since you exit into Heaven, it is still buying your way into Heaven). 1517 Luther posted Thesis. 1567 They were banned. Certainly, in matters of temporal corruption around Monarchy it is much better.
It is clear to me that the world in which we live, the one with America as the Shining City on the Hill would not exist without the Reformation. I do not think that capitalism would have flourished, and with it, all the innovations. We would not have gone to the Moon, or have instant communications around the Earth. Progress would have been slowed, weighted down by an organization more concerned with maintaining its temporal power than with saving souls, as indulgences indicated. Thesis 82:
Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
I Praise God, and I mean that honestly, that 500 years ago, God inspired Martin Luther to take a stand against the corruption of the Catholic Church, and it allowed the great flourishing of Christianity in the world. Without the Protestant Reformation, there would have been no Adam Smith, no capitalism, No Scottish Enlightenment, no British Empire, and no United States of America.
Thank God, for Martin Luther and his great and grand courage to stand up for what was right against a corrupt regime intent on its own glorification, rather than the glorification of God.
Professor Michael Rectenwald of New York University used to describe himself as a “libertarian communist” and spent many years embedded in the leftist milieu of the academy. He then underwent an awakening to the madness of political correctness, the social justice agenda, and the absurdity of postmodern intersectional critical studies of dozens of genders and began to speak out on Twitter, eventually publishing Springtime for Snowflakes, a book about his experiences and what he learned.
Here is an hour and a half interview of Prof. Rectenwald by Glenn Beck on the latter’s podcast.
This is long, but it provides an in-depth look at the history, intellectual roots, and fundamental errors of the disease which has infected the campuses and is spreading into the larger society. Say what you want about Glenn Beck, he is a superb interviewer who gets out of the way and lets the guest speak directly to the audience.
This morning I was reading over at the other place, as I do from time to time. I read Brian Watt’s post, The Church’s Ongoing Gay Orgy, and the first page of the comments. The first comment was Bryan’s, and he proposed a solution to the gay-clergy crisis:
The laity should abandon the church. Stop giving money. Leave it. Only that will force it to change. It was so 500 years ago.
There are a few ways I can argue why this isn’t a good idea, and they involve using arguments that have already been used over and over, none of which are really my own. And I see that others have attempted this strategy over there.
Rather than rehashing old arguments, I’d like to share something dramatically more personal. I don’t think people here have read my book (and for a couple of you, that’s my fault since I still haven’t sent the copies I promised to send!). I mention the book because it outlines some of my experiences that led me to become Catholic.
The bottom line is that I couldn’t have seen what I saw about God’s plan for marriage and human sexuality had I recommitted myself to any sort of Protestantism after leaving the Gnostic cult. This is because what I saw about the distortion of those things has its roots and foundation in contraception. Everything that I saw about God’s plan for marriage and human sexuality, much of which Protestants can and do affirm, is grounded in the notion that contraception is contrary to God’s plan.
You’ve probably all heard of the Catholic phrase, “the contraceptive mentality.” Pope St. John Paul II coined the phrase in 1981. I have noticed that the phrase doesn’t seem to make sense to non-Catholics, so I prayed hard for a long time about how to convey the idea in a different way. I finally settled on the following that I believe says essentially the same thing: that fertile opposite sex couples have a right for pregnancy-free coitus. I have used this phrase online many times, and it resonates with people. They believe that they do have such a right. I like this phrase because it captures something dear to people. We all do have rights, and rights are important. The State is obliged to recognize our rights.
Here is how the phrase applies to abortion: if fertile opposite-sex couples have a right for pregnancy-free coitus, then abortion must be legal, because it upholds that right. A right for pregnancy-free coitus positions the unborn as unwelcome invaders. Their humanity is irrelevant because they have violated the right. This is why they can be terminated.
Here is how it applies to same-sex marriage: I’m sure you recall the marriage wars at the other place. Those on offense argued repeatedly that marriage, sex, and children were not linked in a principled way. And in one sense they were correct. What I mean is that contraception is what unlinked sex and children in a apparently-principled fashion. The right to pregnancy-free coitus is so appealing that people don’t realize that it is a new right. It did not always exist.
Because of the new-found right for pregnancy-free coitus given by
contraception, children are added-back to marriage in an ad hoc, couple-by-couple manner. If sex is a presumptively sterile act, making the ad hoc approach to children the correct approach, then same-sex marriage is logically justified since same-sex couples cannot conceive their own children.
Let me make it clear that when I use the word “right” in this sense, I am not referring to a clearly articulated legal right. I am using the word in a colloquial sense, although certain significant SCOTUS decisions allude to it. For example, see Planned Parenthood v Casey and Obergefell v Hodges.
I know, beyond any doubt whatsoever, what God’s full plan is for marriage and human sexuality. I would never have understood this plan so thoroughly had I reaffirmed any sort of Protestantism after leaving the Gnostic cult. This is because the Catholic Church is the very last Christian body that understands the problem of contraception.
The gay-clergy and those who affirm them are wrong. They may do tremendous damage to the Church, along with the entire sexual revolution. Much damage has already been done. But for me, leaving the Church is not the answer to the destruction. The question is: who is right about the entirety of the sexual revolution, including contraception? We all think we’re on the “correct” side, but how we got there matters. I know where I stand, where I have driven my stake into the ground, and most importantly, how I got there. I can’t predict the future, but if I ever wanted to leave I don’t know where I’d go. By God’s grace I have seen so much of which I have shared a little here.
Yes, that stale accusation is making the rounds once again. After a diversion of several weeks, Big Media is now in panic mode since early voting has started. Big Media was distracted by Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, and used that as the launch pad for attacks on white women, in an attempt to shame and bully white women who were leaning towards Republican candidates. They showed how desperate they are to wedge voters away from the GOP and President Trump. Now they are returning to more familiar ground, which is continued attacks on white Evangelicals in an attempt to wedge them away from President Trump’s GOP.
Of course the New York Times is leading the charge. They ran an article that purported to provide a political history of Evangelicals: “Religion and Right Wing Politics: How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections.” It is mostly forgettable. It contains several howlers, such as “American evangelicals had long steered clear of politics,” which is silly. It would be better to say that American evangelicals had long been politically divided. This article incorrectly cites the Moral Majority as the beginning of political realignment of Evangelicals. I think that is really clueless. The Moral Majority got its start and gained traction because the Democrat Party started kicking traditionalists and conservatives out and embraced moral confusion. Along the way, the NYT quotes Michael Gerson as part of the “Religious Right.” Ha.
The New York Times also did a feature where they invited young Evangelicals to comment on their personal politics. They said they received 1500 comments. They printed ten or so. It was pretty much what you would expect. The New York Times’s favorite Evangelicals are actually ex-Evangelicals. The young Evangelicals the NYT chose to quote expressed quite a lot of confusion and dissatisfaction with their Christianity.
NeverTrumper David French wrote a column at National Review in which he riffed on the NYT comments from young Evangelicals and blamed this youthful religious confusion on Donald Trump. He charged “tribalism.” How tedious.
My favorite media critics noticed all this, but in this case they are very clever but ultimately less than helpful. They are pro-life Democrats, though, so it is not surprising that they are not up to the challenge of giving this mess the thorough mocking that it all deserves.
They did manage to pass along this nice observation:
“…it’s amazing the degree to which the voices in this unscientific survey that ended up in print — in the world’s most powerful newspaper — sound exactly like you would expect young evangelical Timesreaders to sound.”
Elsewhere, NPR is rooting for liberal Evangelicals, hoping that they will persuade some traditionalist Evangelicals that Trump is so immoral that they should not vote for him.
I am currently reading Walter Russell Mead’s book God and Gold, subtitled Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World. In this book, he discusses the role of religion as one of the forces in the making of the Western Enlightenment societies we have today. He says this about the Jews in today’s world:
Apart from the significance of Jewish experience to Jews, the survival of the Jews into modern times serves for billions of non-Jews as a kind of historical proof that the God of Abraham is powerful and real. God told Abraham that he would have descendants who would remember his name–and lo! there they are. That this unique people, returning almost miraculously against all probability to the land God promised Abraham would support his descendants, is a kind of bone in the throat of the world–a people and a state that can neither be spat out nor swallowed, unable to find rest at “home” or in exile–only further shows billions of Abrahamic believers just how powerful the narrative (or the God) remains after all these millennia. That world history remains convulsed by the struggles of the Jews to make a home, and that their ethical and military successes and failures reverberate to the ends of the earth, further reinforces the most powerful cultural force that human beings know.
I just love his phrase about the “bone in the throat of the world”, it just works. And the paragraph above supports what I have come to think of as the role of the Jewish People in the world.
The Jews are the Conscience of Humanity. You will know when the human race is well and truly doomed. When the last Jew is gone.
May the Jewish People live, and thrive, Forever. Amen
I was listening today to the August 26 podcast from the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones on “He That Hath Ears” (it’s available on itunes). He comments that in the 1930s, a spiritualist medium came to one of his services and was converted. She said that she recognized in his service that there was spiritual power. But unlike the powers she used or recognized as a medium, it was a clean power. As our society moves away from Christianity, it will become increasingly irrational (see the transgender lunacy), conformist and intolerant.
LifeSiteNews is a small anti-abortion activist group, pro-life journalism outlet, and news aggregator. It was launched in 1997 as a spinoff of Campaign Life Coalition. Both are based in Toronto. Unless you are a traditionalist Catholic or a pro-life culture warrior, you probably never heard of them.
They have had a lot of excitement lately. For a year they have been fighting for their life as an organization. They had become very dependent on their Facebook page as their primary way to communicate with their network of donors, most of whom are Catholic families making small-time contributions. Facebook has been waging war against them.
In addition to filtering them out of searches and giving them the “shadow ban” treatment, Facebook has refused to run their ads:
One response that our team received as the reason for Facebook’s disapproval of our ads is equally concerning. The ad pertaining to this response simply showed an image of a pregnant mother holding a photo of her baby’s ultrasound…
I do see that the ad has a fetus and while it involves your ad text and topic, it may be viewed too strong for Facebook to allow to show.
Such viewpoint discrimination is a direct attack on our shared life and family values, and is greatly affecting our efforts to fundraise and spread our news.
Yes, a pregnant woman showing off the ultrasound picture of her baby is “too strong” for Facebook. That is a transparent excuse that says Facebook does not like advocacy for babies. Facebook is enforcing the Culture of Death.
They do this by decreeing that accurately reporting on the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood is “fake news.” Truth is irrelevant; what matters is the narrative.
Facebook recently admitted to combating “fake news” by developing a system that ranks users’ trustworthiness on a scale from 1 to 10. This is determined by users’ opinions rather than objective investigations!
This means that aggressively pro-choice and anti-family Facebook users can rank LifeSiteNews as “untrustworthy” with the simple click of a button – just because they dislike the facts that we publish.
Facebook has therefore made it ridiculously easy for our highly organized, well-financed (George Soros, etc) and hateful opponents to have LifeSiteNews wrongly categorized as “fake news” and our traffic suppressed according to Facebook’s “terms of agreement.” Truth does not matter according to this mob-mentality-serving process.
If you are wondering where it was that you recently saw their name, it was because they landed the biggest Catholic scoop of August. In the middle of the Catholic summer of distress over new sex scandals, Archbishop Viganò released a letter that said that Pope Francis and the rest of the Vatican were aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s habit of pressing young seminarians for sex, and also that he had covered for homosexual priests who preyed on teenage boys. Pope Francis had rehabilitated McCarrick in spite of this knowledge.
Archbishop Viganò gave his letter to two conservative Italian journalists that he trusts. He also sent it to LifeSiteNews. Evidently that was the only English-language outlet that he trusts.
Since then, other traditionalist Catholics have gone directly to LifeSiteNews with background and new developments on these scandals.
Search and you will not find
Facebook is not the only internet service that is hostile to pro-life advocates. Several news aggregators have the habit of demoting LifeSiteNews as well as other conservative outlets. So for the past weeks we have seen searches that turned up dozens of articles and editorials that cited LifeSiteNews, but unless you type “lifesitenews” in your search, you will not see their original reporting on the first four pages of results.
I am not a Catholic. As a Lutheran, the Church of Rome teaches that I am condemned to hell as a Schismatic. Nevertheless I have several Catholic friends, and I find that traditionalist Catholics are my most trustworthy allies in the culture wars. I need strong Catholics to help rescue western civilization from the assaults of Satan.
Please consider giving a little support to LifeSiteNews, either with a few bucks, or by sharing their plight with your Catholic and pro-life friends.
Mass media, the legacy media, you know, those “Lamestream” guys, are keeping me busy tracking their continued attempts to wedge Evangelical voters away from President Trump. One way they do this is to pound on the hypocrisy angle at every opportunity. Of course, Evangelicals continue to provide lots of opportunities.
Hence the #MeTooForChurch series of exposes to detail those Evangelical pastors who have been caught in sin. Particularly notable this summer was the philandering scandal at Willow Creek, which is an Evangelical megachurch with a network of associated churches. Pastor Bill Hybels and his leadership team are out and the church is reeling. Almost every mass media outlet covered it, but all the articles seemed to be derivative of reporting by the Chicago Tribune and Religion News Service. There wasn’t an anti-Trump hook to this story, so it played out in the press the way most church scandals do.
Russkies at the Prayer Breakfast
The New York Times wins the prize for this latest reporting period for an article about the National Prayer Breakfast. The article ran on July 27. The National Prayer Breakfast happened back in February. Why such a late-breaking article? Well, the obvious answer is Russians.
Yes, the NYT ran a hatchet job about the National Prayer Breakfast in which they noted that a couple of Russians were in attendance, including Maria Butina, which, according to them, taints the whole affair and confirms Trump colluded with the Russkies to derail her highness’s path to victory. Now, I would have been content to scoff them and mock them and call them “fake news,” but I saw that one of my favorite media critics, Julia Duin, took them seriously and provided a better response. Here is an excerpt from her post, which includes a quote from the NYT:
The bottom line: I’m just surprised it took the Russians this long to discover what everyone else knew – that the breakfast and its parent organization, the International Foundation, have been organizing “secret” meetings between foreign government leaders and U.S. politicians … for years.
Doesn’t the same sort of thing happen at Vatican embassies around the world? Is this news all that surprising? The key question is documenting the money involved.
What’s more, participants appear to see ultimate value in meetings and relationships seemingly irrespective of the motives of those present.
I would sub in “evangelistic value,” in that the motive behind the breakfast is to pave the way for the spread of the Gospel in foreign countries by inviting their government officials to the breakfast.
Remember, the folks at the breakfast – and the Foundation – are using this as an opportunity to reach the Russians (and others) just as much as the folks from overseas are using it as a way to reach influential Americans.
Well, yes, one of the original reasons for holding a prayer breakfast targeted to Washington politicians was to use it to reach out to leaders of non-Christian nations to persuade them to treat their Christians better, and possibly to persuade both American and foreign politicians of the truth of the Gospel.
Of some interest over the summer were media digs at Evangelicals in ways devised to emphasize that journalists think Evangelical Trump voters are all hypocrites. Salon ran an article, but since it is Salon, maybe they don’t qualify as news media. Their article excoriated Evangelicals for being hypocrites on account of Trump’s immorality, and then they paused to celebrate the general rise of sexual immoralities, and then they also celebrated the rise of people who have dropped out of traditional churches. Typical.
The only reason to mention Salon is because they get promoted in the feed at the Google News aggregator. Google promotes their catchy headline, and that is what puts them on my radar. Their headline stayed in the Google News Spotlight for several days.
Mike Pence, Christianist monster
There was a spate of articles that seemed intended to wedge Mike Pence away from President Trump, or to simply portray Mike Pence as a monstrous theocrat. Since they were all simply rehashing stuff I have written about before, there is no need to give a blow-by-blow. SSDD.
There was a more recent example. It was from an Alabama newspaper, but it also got featured prominently near the top of the default Google News page. This one was also intended to chide Evangelicals because they support immoral President Trump. They found a liberal Baptist history professor (he also has an MDiv but I don’t know if he was ever ordained). They quote him extensively saying the usual Leftist stuff:
There are broader issues at play, too, with Trump’s stand on Muslim immigration echoing past religious right alarms against non-Protestant immigrants changing the nation’s faith demographics.
“Trump is, at best, racially insensitive, if not racist,” said Leonard, a former religion professor at Samford University and retired divinity dean at Wake Forest University.
But many evangelicals like his style, Leonard said.
“Fundamentalists vest great power in the authoritarian leader who brooks no disagreement,” Leonard said. “They have an appreciation for Trump as an authoritarian figure.”
Baptists traditionally supported the separation of church and state, but shifted with the rise of the Moral Majority in 1979 and the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980. Despite being divorced, Reagan was the choice of evangelicals over Jimmy Carter, a born-again believer and Baptist Sunday school teacher who did not agree with the religious right on many issues.
That is pitiful dreck through and through. “Trump’s stand on Muslim immigration echoing past religious right alarms against non-Protestant immigrants changing the nation’s faith demographics.” This assumes the Leftists’ worst construction of “religious right alarms” about Muslim immigration, insinuating that the concern is with all “non-Protestant immigrants” and alleging that the problem with Muslim immigrants is demographic, which of course is code for racist. I am calling B.S. on Dean Leonard and AL.com and the reporter, Greg Garrison.
I think Dean Leonard has slandered Fundamentalists as well as President Trump.
I recall debates among traditionalist Christians regarding the difficult choice between irreligious divorcee California actor Reagan versus Baptist Georgia farmer Carter. We voted for Reagan. I don’t recall anyone being called “immoral” for making that choice. But I have been called immoral for voting for President Trump, and in fact, I saw that “immoral” smear tossed around again just this week by NeverTrumpers.
And I resent Dean Leonard’s slander that “Baptists traditionally supported the separation of church and state, but shifted with the rise of the Moral Majority….” Did Baptists stop supporting the separation of church and state? He alleges in that article that Baptists want to use the power of the state to re-establish their dominant political position. He is wrong. Baptists are appealing to government to stop coercing Christians into forced speech that celebrates the sins of the protected classes. Baptists and other traditionalist Christians are appealing to government to stop meddling in local bathrooms. The key for Baptists and other Evangelicals is that Team Obama was using the federal government to elevate non-traditional religion over traditionalist religions; we simply wanted the State to cease establishing Leftist religion.
Evangelicals, whether Baptist or not (I am not a Baptist), are politically active because we are defending ourselves against the attacks of the Left, who have been using the power of government, as has been discussed here at Ratburger.org on previous occasions. Leftists may cry “theocrat” but the truth is that they are the ones on offense and we are the ones on defense, and it has been this way ever since the Reagan Administration.
I will close this time with an opinion column that ran at The Atlantic. It was by Peter Beinart, a professor of journalism at CUNY. It was more of the ‘Evangelicals are racists’ stuff that I have been writing about all year. This one seemed to pivot; Beinard did not address himself to Evangelicals and gave no indication that he expected to have any Evangelical readers. He was not trying to wedge Evangelicals away from President Trump. He was giving Leftists permission to consider Evangelicals to be horrible racist, sexist, homophobic, mean persons, as a way to encourage Leftist political activisms. He wrote on the topic of corruption, brushing off all allegations of corruption by Hillary, and focusing on the corruption of Trump. He wrote that Evangelicals were more concerned about people of color corrupting the complexion of America than about Trump’s political corruption.
I think we will see less of the media attempts to wedge Evangelicals away from President Trump. We have seen a number of pundits and journalists wailing about how, for all their attacks, articles, shows, editorials, histrionics and shouting, the needle has not moved; Evangelicals who support President Trump have remained unmoved.
Having just turned 74, with several medical conditions consistent with that age, awareness of the vulnerability and mortality I used to work so very hard to fend off and deny, is fully upon me. Although I still work one day a week as an anesthesiologist, much of my time is unstructured. I have completed all the tasks I set forth and have passed all the milestones in life to which I used to look forward. Now, I sense I am just running out the clock, one 90-day prescription renewal at a time.
My children are grown and educated without being indebted. I have actuarially-sufficient savings because, by choice, I always lived below my means. Looking back, I can clearly see how, by directing all my conscious energy toward single-minded pursuit of all the outward and visible tasks (B.A., M.S. M.D., J.D., medical licensure and board certification exams, bar exams, pilot’s license exams, including private, instrument, commercial, multiengine, flight instructor), I left myself no time or energy to examine the broader context of my life. One might say that then, I was a human doing rather than the human being I am today. As this human being, I have (too) much time to ruminate, and my inner pessimist has come to the fore.
These thoughts this Labor Day weekend, were provoked by my reading Herman Wouk’s “This is My God.” You see, at this stage of life, in lieu of external goals I am on an inner quest – for understanding. I earnestly long to understand the meaning of not only my life, but of life in the universe and its destiny. We are either blessed to cursed to live in a time when – if not answers – at least the ability to ask better questions has arisen by virtue of our exponentially-increasing knowledge of the physical universe and of our own biology.
The rate of increase of such knowledge and the technology following in its wake, is unsettling. That is the case to those of us who – in addition to seeing beginnings, meanings and ends of things – also long to understand the context of our lives in the river of time. In that stream, we flail about, imagining we are free to move according to our will, yet often losing sight of the inexorable flow which takes us wherever it is destined. I suppose it is fair to say that nowadays some are aware of this and imagine we may eventually redirect the entire river. Who knows if humans may one day achieve such God-Like powers.
The main intellectual quest I find myself in this winter of life is an attempt to understand human ontology and, to do that it seems to me, I ought to have an intimate grasp of historical facts and also subjective human experience throughout history – even at times prior to written records. What was it like for early humans to merely subsist? To find water, food, shelter, clothing? To have children? A third reading of “The Source” by James Michener has given me some insight into this, notwithstanding the fact the book is a work of fiction; it was based in much archeological research for which the author is renowned.
The story, set in a 1960’s fictional archeological ‘tell’ in Galilee, Israel, traces the roots of human existence in that area from the posited beginning to the present. Our ancestors first lived there in a cave adjacent to an artesian well (a source, or Makor in Hebrew) about 50,000 years ago. The particulars set forth in “The Source,” I believe, are generalizable to much of humanity in many times and at many places. It is a stark and plausible adumbration of much innate human behavior whose shadows (at least) are still apparent among us moderns.
I found myself moved to tears a few hours ago while reading the aforementioned “This is My God.” In a chapter entitled “The Nature of Festivals,” Wouk recounts the deep agricultural roots of the Jews and says:
“But the Torah of Moses, which ordained the festivals,… prophesied that the glories would be temporary, that the people in their prosperity would lose their hold on the law and on their land, and would scatter into exile; and it ordained that the nation should go on observing the festivals wherever they dwelt, to all time. And so we do. Our people has lived for thousands of years in the faith that in God’s good time he will restore the nation to its soil, and that the festivals will take on, in their latter days, their ancient force and beauty.
Meantime – and it has been a long meantime! – these holy days, diminished as they are in substance and in pomp, are bulwarks of Judaism in exile. In Israel, even among the non-religious, they have speedily become national celebrations. To neglect them is to neglect the dikes that hold back the sea of oblivion, and to cheat oneself of pleasant and informing experiences (my emphasis). Words are dry and tenuous compared to vivid acts like clearing the home of leaven (ritually removing all traces of yeast before Passover) and marching with a palm branch. You can listen to a hundred lectures and read forty books on what Judaism is, and learn learn less than you can by carrying out in a single year the duties and the pleasure of festivals.”
The tears resulted from a realization so near that I am surprised I never saw it before. I not only did not identify with the religion and practices of my grandparents, all of whom were Ashkenazis from Eastern Europe who fled pogroms around 1900; I positively rejected all of that in a vain effort to be NOT like my father. Believing I might invent myself de novo, severed from those ancient cultural roots, I tried to fashion myself as his negation. If he was a Jew, I was not. Imprinted by childhood memories of the Depression, he lived out an intense need to have enough money and material things and to believe he had control of most everyone and everything in his vicinity.
He insisted I had to become a doctor and tried to “toughen me up” for life with criticism. He did manage to convince me that the world is generally not a safe place (this, he surely learned, himself, as part of trans-generational Jewish cultural history); this made me hyper-vigilant; I never quite lived up to his expectations of me – I never quite ‘got it right’ in his eyes. The silver lining in all that was that I was also driven to excel, which I did manage to pull off, in the eyes of most everyone else. That long list of degrees and accomplishments, in reality, was my way of manipulating the world at large to get it reassure me that I actually am a worthwhile person, despite what my father thinks. It was also my way of being sure I would always have enough, as I secretly bought into his Depression-based fears of scarcity (all the while denying it vehemently).
The essential insight I had this morning was simply this: here I am, single-mindedly (again!) trying – before I die – to understand the human nature and subjective experience of all those who came before me and lived long enough to procreate yet, all the while, rejecting my own real and uniquely accessible history going back over three millennia!
How and why my ancestors lived is explicitly laid out in the Torah, the Talmud and the extensive oral tradition. Today’s tears are tears of grief and regret over having intentionally denied myself and my children “of pleasant and informing experiences.” That is, I denied me and my children the possibility of having been in-formed, of allowing us to be formed within a known, comprehensible and even a reassuring context. I’m not sure, but I suspect that those who grow up in modernity “in-formed” with such traditions can navigate more surely the river of life in the many dimensions in which we all must navigate.
Much of modern anxiety, an attribute of our times I think, derives from not only the increasing pace of the current of the river of our lives but also from the absence of landmarks and other navigational aids which culture – including knowledge of history – used to provide. As did I, our culture is about the business of ignoring or revising history. Doing so, in my experience, is a grievous error.