The Crisis of Islam

In The Crisis of Islam, Near- and Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis gives an historical overview of the conflicts over the last, oh, 1400 years or so between Islam and “the West.” It was written in 2003, so a lot has happened since then: the “completion” of American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the so-called Arab Spring, civil wars in Libya and Syria, the killing of Osama bin Laden,  the rise of ISIS, just to name a few. But, given that most of the book is devoted to giving a historical perspective, it’s still valuable. And, most of Lewis’s themes and conclusions don’t seem to have been contradicted by anything that has happened since he wrote the book. I judge his biggest omission to be his failure to acknowledge and discuss the deep Sunni/Shia schism in Islam and the implications for the Middle East. Still — Lewis is a good writer and this is a good read.

The Foolishness of Making Things Happen

Dallas Willard is so right:

“So often the work of the leader or pastor is so hard and so full of disappointments and their own lives are empty – and, they eventually blow up. It’s because they haven’t heard the message that Jesus gave. They heard another message. And, perhaps with the best of intentions they were driven into a life whether they thought their job was to make things happen — and that’s the worst position you can be in. Of course, you’re going to act. But, your job is not to make things happen. We live in the Kingdom of God where God is active, His Spirit is present, His Son is alive; that’s where we live. They will make it happen. And if we make it happen the result will be our converts, and then probably we’re going to have to keep making them do things, because they’re depending on us to jump start them, and keep them going, rather than putting them on to the living Kingdom of God and the living Christ and allowing them to live interactively, one-on-one, with God — and transform the world in which they’re living.” – Dallas Willard (Living in the Presence of Christ, Lecture 1)

Free Expression for All! (Except for Traditional Religious Believers)

In the wake of the murders in Paris of the Charlie Hebdod staff, I have been encouraged by the outpourings of support for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. But, it is obvious that many, at least here in the U.S., despite their declarations of such support, believe they know best when those freedoms should be restricted. For example, the New York Times editorial writers…….

If you haven’t heard, last week the city of Atlanta fired Kelvin Cochran, the chief of its Fire and Rescue Department. Cochran charges that it was because he expressed his condemnation of homosexuality in a book he wrote in 2013.

Well, the NY TImes editorial writers, recent defenders of Charlie Hebdod’s right to publish cartoons considered blasphemous by many Muslims (and by the way, I can understand why many Muslims would be offended), apparently see no contradiction between that defense and cheering the firing of Cochran. How strange. Just a few days ago, David Brooks, columnist for the NY Times pointed out this kind of hypocrisy among many self-identifying liberals, for example, the enforcers of political correctness on college campuses.

Rod Dreher discusses the chilling hypocrisy of the NY Times editorial board. And Denny Burke highlights, what seems to at least some of us to be, the obvious implications for religious liberty. Both point out the admission by the city of Atlanta that there was absolutely no evidence that Chief Cochran had mistreated gays or lesbians. In other words, the NY Times finds it laudable to fire people because of what they believe and say, even when what they are saying is consistent with the traditional teaching of three of the world’s great religions. (Although, I agree with Rod: I think the way that Cochran expressed himself was graceless. I wouldn’t have said it the way he said it. But, that’s fodder for another post.)

We are in for some big debates in this country regarding freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. But, I suppose that’s been obvious for quite some time.

The War in Afghanistan – Over?

The last few days, there have been numerous news stories about the end of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. I’m glad that it’s “over.” But, there’s a reason I put “over” in quotation marks. As a friend of mine told me on New Year’s Eve, even as the news media is focused on the end-of-the-year end of the war, her son is being deployed by the Air Force to …… Afghanistan. This Bloomberg story gives some of the reasons why it’s still not over.