Friday, August 31, 2007

The Will of God

Here's Richard John Neuhaus in particularly wise form on the question of discerning God's will for one's life.

His conclusion: You may never know for sure, and that's just fine.

I may have more comment on this later.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The state of the race

Here's some gripping, fearless commentary that puts the upcoming presidential election in its proper historical perspective. Enjoy.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sex, Sharia, and Foucault

David Frum has a fascinating book review at NRO today about deconstructionist philosopher Michael Foucault's (figurative) love affair with Ayatollah Khomeni and the Iranian Revolution. Apparently Foucault, increasingly discouraged by Marxism's failure to catch on in the West, saw radical Islam as the last best hope of dismantling the old-guard Judeo-Christian/Enlightenment order he detested.

What's more, this book (Foucault and the Iranian Revolution: Gender and the Seductions of Islamism by Janet Afary and Kevin Anderson) asserts, the Revolution's subjugation of women was not incidental to Foucault's admiration.

Frum's money quote:

Indeed, as Afary and Anderson point out, at the moment of his deepest engagement with the Iranian revolution, Foucault was at work upon the books he regarded as his masterwork, his History of Sexuality – a history that treats the emancipation of women in the later Graeco-Roman period as a catastrophe that put an end to the happy classical period when reproductive sex was regarded as an unpleasant duty, with pleasure to be sought between men and boys.

For Foucault, sexual pleasure was intimately bound to rituals of domination and outright acts of brutality. The Judaeo-Christian attempt to separate sex from cruelty was the poisoned apple in his Garden of Eden. He recognized that the Graeco-Roman world had departed forever. But some part of him seems to have hoped that the Islamic revolution might offer a return.

My thought: a lot of slurs and accusations have been leveled against Christianity over the years, but the charge of separating sex from cruelty is one we should be able to own proudly.

There's a deeper point here, too, one that G.K. Chesterton makes at great length in The Everlasting Man. To wit: if one wants to assess the claims of Christianity, one must really look first at what it replaced. Because it has been so dominant for so long, however, its detractors need not even consider how much their worldview is based on assumptions that were once radically and explicitly Christian. That pederasty is wrong, for instance.

And this, I think, has something to do with why many serious Christian philosophers have actually welcomed the deconstructionism and postmodernism of Foucault and his ilk. It's fatal in large doses, but it does serve as a kind of philosophical diharretic, opening up an entire new language with which to express the thrilling claims of Christianity. And by rejecting en masse the traditions of both Christianity and the Enlightenment, it highlights just how much the latter depends on the former, and how lost we are without it.

UPDATE: I havent read it yet, but I hear that Tod Lindberg's The Political Teachings of Jesus is also excellent--and undoubtedly more scholarly than Chesterton--in parsing out the widespread assumptions of our day that come directly from the Gospels.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Name above [some] names

I hesitate to attempt any intelligent commentary on this story, if only because I don't want any thoughtful points I make to detract from its all-around creepiness.

So before I go on, please take a moment to read, shudder, and pray for my Church.

Thank you.

Now, can someone please explain to me how Catholics starting to call God "Allah" would do anything to promote religious understanding? True enough, the English word "God," apart from historical context and its distinctive capitalization, doesn't do much to specify Yahweh, the God of Israel, or the Trinity of Christian understanding, and "Al Lah" (The God) is basically its Arabic translation. So it would be only natural that Arabic-speaking (and sure, why not Indonesian) Christians would call God "Allah." (Do they? If I presume wrongly, someone please educate me.)

But I wonder whether Belgium's Islamic community would appreciate the gesture. I'm no expert on Islamic theology when it comes to the name of God, but the only Muslims I've ever discussed the issue with have insisted that the name "Allah" in their understanding refers exclusively to the God of Islam, and any similarity to pre-Islamic Arab words is incidental. (Again, I'd appreciate someone with more knowledge here speaking up.)

In any case, it's highly likely that any such effort would create far more confusion than understanding, and it makes one suspicious that this is simply another example of the term "interreligious understanding" being used as Newspeak for the minimization of crucial differences in belief.

If Bishop Muskens really wants to promote understanding, his energy would be better spent articulating Christian belief, clearly, rationally, and charitably, and expecting the same of other religious leaders.

And speaking of Christian belief, the good Bishop's notion that God doesn't care what he's called is shaky at best. See, for instance, the First Commandment: Thou shalt not take my name in vain. It's true that Christians don't generally call him "Yahweh" (or YHWH) anymore, and that God has many names throughout the Bible, but each one of those many names matters in that it communicates something essential about his character.

Like his revelation to Moses: "I am the God of Abraham, the God if Isaac, the God of Jacob... I AM," which both asserts his transcendent being and defines his identity in specific relationship to the history of Moses' people. Or Jesus' "Abba, Father," a bold assertion of intimacy.

All of which means that while the name "God" is nothing fancy (although, I think, descriptive in its simplicity), why we call him what we do still matters greatly.

And "interreligious understanding" just doesn't cut it.

UPDATE: Robert T. Miller at First Things makes some similar points at greater length.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Humility is harder than that

Gov. Spitzer delivered a strange speech last week on "The need for both passion and humility in politics."

It's rather long, but you can get a good sense of what he said from the relevant editorials in the NY Post and the Daily News.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Making an ass of myself

It's time to register to vote -- and that presents me with an unexpected dilemma.

It's no secret that I'm a fairly solid conservative, and nothing about living in New York for the past two months has done anything to change that. Nevertheless, I've received the strong suggestion from several sources recently that I consider registering as a Democrat.

The rationale is that New York City doesn't have much of a Republican Party to speak of. Of the 51 members of the City Council, only three are Republicans. Of those three, two represent Staten Island -- the small, residential, middle-class "forgotten borough" -- and the third was indicted last week on rape charges.

That means that the elections that matter are the Democratic primaries, which often feature mostly reasonable candidates running against demagogues and crazies for the right to rout whoever the Republicans put up in the general election. (Nothing, of course, would necessarily prevent me from voting for that Republican anyway.) Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of First Things fame, for instance, is a Democrat for precisely this reason.

I haven't made any decision yet -- I'd have to weigh this against my desire to vote in the Republican presidential primary, among other things. But go ahead, let the jokes begin.

That said, for anyone who's curious, I figured out all my elected representatives this morning.

U.S. Congress: Democrat Carolyn Maloney, 14th district
N.Y. State Senate: Democrat George Onorato, 12th district
N.Y. State Assembly: Democrat Michael N. Gianaris, 36th district
New York City Council: Democrat Peter F. Vallone, Jr., 22th district


Friday, August 3, 2007

Big News

As of today, I officially have a full-time job and a kick-ass apartment.

First, the job. I'm staying on at The Post, basically doing the same thing I've been doing, except now I have health benefits and a sweet-sounding title: Associate Editorial Page Editor. Along with that, however, I suppose this is as good a place as any to state for the record that the opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own. At least the ones that might reflect poorly on the page as a whole.

And now the place--a near-miracle really. Within a period of five hours yesterday evening, I found, visited, and secured a room in an amazing apartment. I'll be moving into a 3-bedroom apartment in the Astoria section of Queens. It's only a 30-minute commute (10 min. walk, 20 min. subway) from Midtown Manhattan, and it's plenty big, with lots of bright windows and access to a roof with a sweet view of the Manhattan skyline. And the roommates seem pretty cool too. I'll post pictures of the view when I can. But for now, here's an article from the indispensable City Journal about Queens in general, which is by all accounts a very nice place.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


A strange story from The Post's sister paper (tee-hee) today: The piano John Lennon used to compose "Imagine" is making a quiet tour of various American scenes of tragedy. It's been to Virginia Tech, New Orleans, and Waco, among other places. Columbine High School and Ford's Theater have turned it down.

I agree with one New Orleans woman's initial assessment: "creepy."

It's probably obvious, but there's little love lost between me and this song. Honestly, I can't think of any song that would be less comforting to me in a time of tragedy.

On the other hand, I think its send-up in Forrest Gump is absolutely hilarious. In the scene, Forrest is on the Jonny Carson show talking about his Chinese table tennis exploits, alongside guess-who:

Gump: In Communist China, they don't really have a lot of things.

John Lennon: No posessions?

Gump: And nobody goes to church there either.

Lennon: No religion, too?

Carson: Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Lennon: Oh, it's easy if you try.

A brilliant parody: cute, friendly, and absolutely brutal.