In the end, the, Douthat does understand something:
The only comfort, as we watch Egyptians struggle for their country’s future, is that some choices aren’t America’s to make.Some? How about many? How about most?
The only comfort, as we watch Egyptians struggle for their country’s future, is that some choices aren’t America’s to make.Some? How about many? How about most?
A main inference from the State of the Union is that in 2011 and 2012, the president will not initiate. He will broker. Every policy recommendation will be supported and, so far as possible, clinched by the testimony of a panel of experts. There were signs of this pattern in the group of former secretaries of state, including Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell, whom the president brought in to endorse the START nuclear pact; in the generals who were called on to solidify support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; and in Bill Clinton holding a presidential press briefing on the economy. Obama, on such occasions, serves as host and introducer; he leaves the podium to the experts. The idea is to overwhelm us with expertise. In this way, a president may lighten the burden of decision and control by easing the job of persuasion into other hands. Obama seems to believe that the result of being seen in that attitude will do nothing but good for his stature.This may be what he learned as a community organizer, to let others do the heavy lifting. Indeed, Bromwich said Obama appears to be modeling himself expressly after Ronald Reagan, who was master of the feel-good, empty phrase. Along those lines, Bromwich also notes this:
Barack Obama, starting in 2002—the year he declared at a Chicago rally his opposition to the coming war against Iraq—had a keen eye on his political rise, but he had slender experience and a narrow focus disguised by inspirational special effects. In earlier years, he was protected by the Chicago Democratic machine; after 2004, he was shepherded by leaders of the Democratic party who disliked the Clintons or feared that Hillary Clinton could never win a presidential election. His apparent convictions—-on the environment, on the Middle East, on nuclear proliferation: matters of more concern to him than health care—were resonant and sincere but they had never been brought to a test. It turned out that few of his convictions were as strong as Obama thought they were. [Emphasis mine - CHF]"It turned out that few of his convictions were as strong as Obama thought they were." He never really had to defend or market his positions, never really had to convince others of what he believed. Was never really challenged and never really had to accomplish something in the face of adversity. As a leader.
Today no one can easily say who Barack Obama is or what he stands for; and the coming year is unlikely to offer many clues, since all the thoughts of Obama in 2011 appear to concern Obama in 2012.
"Well, if you really want to talk about what the 'Sputnik moment' is," he replied, "it's the fact that we're broke. And American people know we're broke."Too broke to fight two wars, ya think? Or dominate the world? No, probably not THAT broke. I'm guessing NEVER that broke.
Christians who have a higher allegiance to the church than to American society will not take encouragement from Hunter’s recommendations for “faithful presence.” Social benefits from such a reconfigured orientation to the world may be real, but Christians ought to have their eyes open to the costs involved. A church that trades less effective techniques for more might lose its integrity, the very essence of what defines it as an institution unlike any other, and the unique message it brings to the world. Anyone who spends much time with young Christians these days knows that a generation has been raised by spiritually nomadic church-hopping parents—or even by radically de-institutionalized “home church” families—who have not bothered to initiate their sons and daughters into the life of the church. They have sent their children to the right schools and to worldview boot camp, but they have left them unbaptized, uncatechized, unaccountable, and unhabituated to regular public worship. This trend is becoming increasingly noticeable even among the offspring of conservative homes. A higher and more urgent calling than engaging the world might just be engaging the church.The liberal church -- and by that, I mean the church of just about any political and social stripe in the social democratic or liberal democratic nation-state -- since the 19th century has decided that faithfulness is a matter of, to borrow from Marx, changing the world. But in doing so, the church becomes just another actor in the liberal democratic state, another bit of "civil society" debating terms set solely by modernity and playing solely by the liberal state's rules. The end result of all this is influencing the actions of the state. That's what it means to be effective, and its how the various flavors of the liberal church measure themselves.
Hunter agrees that the church in America is unhealthy. Indeed, it is the premise of his book. But for him the evidence of good health is a church that “exercises itself in all realms of life, not just a few.” Hunter’s call to that comprehensive outworking of the gospel offers both diagnosis and prescription for the “post-political,” “post-Constantinian” church as it faces an increasingly alien “post-Christian” culture. His book will perhaps redirect the strategy, funding, and vocabulary of transformationalists aspiring to be among the cultural elite, but it will not challenge their most cherished presupposition, that the church’s faithfulness ought to be measured by the degree to which it changes the world.
The Lord is not my shepherd; I am always in want.
He makes me to fall down in arid deserts, and he misleads me to bitter and unpalatable waters.
He drains my soul, and he leads me in the paths of evil of for its own sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I am constantly terrified, for God has abandoned me and is of no comfort to me whatsoever.
He prepares a table for my enemies in my presence. He anoints my head with acid, and my cup has been stolen from me.
Surely despair and cruelty shall follow me all the days of my miserable life, and I will wander aimlessly outside the house of the Lord forever.
While the leftist, centrist and clerical opposition to the shah “overdetermined” politics to the detriment of cultural freedoms, the ruler, for his part, failed to understand what increasingly became the clear iron law of culture: men (and women) do not live by bread alone, and when a society is introduced into the ethos of modernity—from the rule of reason and women’s suffrage to the idea of natural rights of citizens and the notion of a community joined together by social contract and legitimized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s popular will—then it will invariably demand its democratic rights. That society will not tolerate the authoritarian rule of even a modernizing monarch capable of delivering impressive economic development. The shah tried to treat the people of Iran as “subjects” and expected their gratitude for the cultural freedoms and economic advancement he had “given” them. But he, and his father (and before them, the participants in the Constitutional Revolution at the turn of the twentieth century), had helped develop a new cultural disposition by creating a parliament and a system of law wherein the people considered themselves citizens and thought of these liberties as their right—not as gifts benevolently bestowed upon them.The promises of modernity and Enlightenment in so far as government are concerned are very beguiling. They may be outright lies, or they may be completely unachievable ideals -- I'm not quite sure which yet. But they are the only game in town. I am not one of the people who believe old and tired adage that democracy is the worst of all possible governments except for all the rest. I am an anarchist with monarchist sympathies, and my ideal government is a pre-nation-state monarchy. But we don't live in that time. The bureaucratic nation-state is how moderns govern themselves. There are no real alternatives. What most concerns me is the exercise of state power, and the reality that it is no more moral when exercised on behalf of the people than when it is on behalf of God or some embodied sovereign person. In fact, I think power is actually less moral when exercised in the name of the people, but for now, that is neither here nor there.
[S]ince his inauguration, Obama's methodological political theory has proved thin and sometimes incoherent. He will never support tax cuts for the rich, until he will. He criticizes Bush's expansive view of presidential war powers, then adopts it. The list goes on.
It's not that he breaks his policy promises more than other politicians. It's not that he seeks compromise – a virtue. It's not even that his policies are wrongheaded. It's the fact that when he compromises, when he reaches policy conclusions, there's no sense that it derives from anything other than ad hoc balancing.
There is no well of enduring principle upon which he seems to draw. Even if he's a pragmatist, eschewing universal principles in favor of context-specific values and concerns, we still don't know what those temporal values and concerns are, or why he believes in them. So far he's the piecemeal president.
He didn’t exactly trumpet American “exceptionalism,” and he didn’t proclaim America’s mission to remake the world, in so many words, but he inserted into his speech an odd phrase: “No one rival superpower is aligned against us.” Without saying so, he portrayed the United States, therefore, as the world’s lone superpower, an errant vision that reinforces the view of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists that America has some vague responsibility for the rest of the world. “American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored,” he proclaimed. Really? Nowhere in his speech did Obama reflect on the necessary, humbling vision of the United States as a declining world power whose future depends on its reaching a series of accommodations with at least five or six other rising powers and regions.But why else should expect different? In this, there is meaning. Obama's world is still an America-centered, America-led, America-managed world for the benefit of America (again, dominating others in order to liberate them -- more good progressive governance) so that more people can live in the abundance and freedom that America. And that is empire, the empire Obama remains committed to maintaining. Plain and simple.
Other societies are perhaps no better than our own; even if we are inclined to believe they are, we have no method at our disposal for proving it. However, by getting to know them better, we are enabled to detach ourselves from our own society. Not that our own society is peculiarly or absolutely bad. But it is the only one from which we have a duty to free ourselves: we are, by definition, free in relation to the others.
People have been writing history for as far back as we know. From the earliest records of civilization, people have kept track of events that had taken place, listing and commenting on them. For a long time that record-keeping was oral, but eventually those records began to be written down and handed on from one generation to the next. These early accounts are often called annals (since they recorded what happened from year to year) or chronicles (if they took a broader scope). These could be bare lists of one thing after another, or they could be crafted to tell a story about a particular group, city-state, people or leader, often emphasizing the great thing done by them.
Any such narrative was intended to drive home a point. The narrator was not particularly concerned to "get the facts straight," and he would have been nonplussed by a call to try and be unbiased in considering the data. Chronicles passed on what needed to be remembered and should be believed; their purpose was to entertain and instruct. Through them people could remember what they should remember, learn what they needed to know and see how to live. (p. 54-55, italics in original)History is a story that tell the meaning -- the story of who we are as a people (or who I am as a person). It may or may not be more than tangentially connected to what actually happened. Unfortunately, mythic histories tend to be acted out in a way that wants to bend reality to the meaning and supposed purposes of history. That is especially a problem with the powerful, or the self-destructive. I may (or may not) write more about that later.
But [Aristotle's] works, all focused on the world here below and all of which followed the same pattern of logical analysis and categorization, offered both a curriculum to used and a way of thought to be followed. Monastic leaders decried learning about the world God had made through the works of a pagan, but philosopher-theologians enamored of the possibilities Aristotle proffered for better understanding the world argued that Aristotle could serve as a reliable guide. The defense offered in the thirteenth century by Albert the Great and his student Thomas Aquinas was that we should distinguish between the realms of nature and grace. In the former, all that was needed in order to learn appropriately was using human reason rightly and humbly. Since Aristotle laid out the patterns for using reason rightly, and followed them himself in his multifaceted exploration of the realm of nature, his works could be utilized to study the world of nature God had made. Where Aristotle had transgressed the limits of reason to propound notions which violated the teaching of scripture--for example, the eternity of matter--Christian learning must humbly decline to follow the pagan philosopher and follow Christian teaching instead.
In due course this basic perspective carried the day. It was a significant development: for the first time, nature and grace were contrasted as realms or spheres. (p. 44)"Nature and grace were contrasted as realms or spheres." I find myself wondering a few things with this. First, how much of the Christian understanding of "two kingdoms" is a result of this medieval synthesis? I realize this is identified as a Lutheran doctrine, but it really is a Christian doctrine justified by scripture but, I'm betting, having very different roots. You can justify with resort to scripture, but I'm not sure scripture is all that clear on the matter. As an example, much is made of made of this exchange in Matthew 22:
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (ESV)
Why do so many continue to act and speak as if history’s atrocities have always been committed in the name of God or Nation, never in the name of Liberation or Equality?
In a filing related to the detention of whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, the Justice Department argued that being a whistleblower and leaking information to the media was a “greater threat to society” than when a spy sells that information to a single foreign country.
The exact details of what Sterling was being charged with leaking were never made public, but there is speculation that it was related to James Risen’s book State of War. The Justice Department filing however insisted that the stance was a general one, and not case-specific.
This might explain why recent officials have shown so little interest in going after actual spies yet are forever riled up by the notion that the American public might have access to similar embarrassing information.
Part of building a better society is relating to others with whom we disagree on important issues without calling them evil. It is out of that work that we recommit ourselves to being peacemakers in our country. It is on that Covenant that we have based this new Pledge.
As the county sheriff in charge of the criminal scene in Tucson said on Saturday, this must be an occasion for national “soul searching.” In the midst of tragedy and violence, I believe this means every Christian must ask: “How am I responsible?”
The sole ideological thread running through Loughner's list is an inchoate anti-authoritarianism. It's likely that what attracted him to "Mein Kampf" and "The Communist Manifesto" was less the political thinking in either book than their aura of the forbidden, the sensation that he was defying the adults around him by daring to read either one. The rest of his favorites -- "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Brave New World," "Animal Farm" and "Fahrenheit 451" -- depict deceitful and oppressive regimes committed to squelching individual initiative and thought.
But chances are that Loughner’s motives will prove as irreducibly complex as those of most of his predecessors in assassination. Violence in American politics tends to bubble up from a world that’s far stranger than any Glenn Beck monologue — a murky landscape where worldviews get cobbled together from a host of baroque conspiracy theories, and where the line between ideological extremism and mental illness gets blurry fast.
This is the world that gave us [Lee Harvey] Oswald and [Arthur] Bremer [who shot George Wallace in 1972]. More recently, it’s given us figures like James W. von Brunn, the neo-Nazi who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in 2009, and James Lee, who took hostages at the Discovery Channel last summer to express his displeasure over population growth. These are figures better analyzed by novelists than pundits: as Walter Kirn put it Saturday, they’re “self-anointed knights templar of the collective shadow realm, not secular political actors in extremis.”
And the staggering reality is that Jesus didn’t kill anybody -- something that can't be said about Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, or Mohammed (no disrespect intended to any of them). He didn't hit anybody. He didn't hate anybody. He practiced as he preached: Reconciliation, not retaliation. Kindness, not cruelty. A willingness to be violated, not violation. Creative conflict transformation through love, not decisive conflict termination through superior weapons. Courageous and compassionate resistance, not violence. Outstretched arms on a cross, not stockpiles of arms, nuclear or otherwise....
Where do you primarily find God on Good Friday?
If God is primarily identified with the Romans, torturing and killing Jesus, then, yes, the case is closed: God must be seen as violent on Good Friday. The cross is an instrument of God's violence.
But if God is located first and foremost with the crucified one, identifying with humanity and bearing and forgiving people's sin, then a very different picture of God and the cross emerges.
Marshall Auerback explains how misguided attempts to reduce the deficit kill jobs, squeeze the working and middle classes, and inflate crude oil prices. And a corrupt political system doesn’t help.
Here the charge of elitism against Obama finds some basis in fact. He shares with his economic advisers the view that wealth is created by the banks and money firms from the top down: a healthy economy comes from money making money, not from people making things.