Burleigh Defends the Pope

Friday, September 17, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

My second favorite living historian, Michael Burleigh, who has written stunningly original works on subjects as diverse as Nazi Germany, religion and politics in the last two centuries,  terrorism, and morality and World War II,  has taken up the cudgels against the despicable attitude of many Brits of the chattering classes regarding the visit of the Pope to the Island next to Ireland.

Under normal circumstances, one might say “welcome” rather than “receive”. But the multiple sexual scandals that have afflicted parts of the Catholic Church have created a window of opportunity for sundry chasers of limelight – including human rights militants, crusading gays, Islamist fanatics, and celebrity God-botherers – to band together to “arrest” the Pope under laws so obscure that few knew they existed. Because child abuse is involved, rather than the more widespread phenomenon of homosexual predation on young men, these manifestations will receive much media attention, especially from the BBC, to the guaranteed perplexity of a less involved general public in a nominally Protestant country. It will require some effort of mind to tune out this noise to hear what the Pope will be saying.

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In Memoriam: Tiananmen Square

Saturday, June 5, 2010 \AM\.\Sat\.

Yesterday, June 4, was the twenty-first anniversary of the brutal suppression of the pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  Over 3000 of the protestors were murdered by the Communist government of China.  Tyranny won that round, but I have absolutely no doubt that Democracy will ultimately prevail in the Middle Kingdom.  When it does, the heroes and heroines of Tiananmen Square will be remembered and their murderers forgotten.

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

–Thucydides


A Secular Case for Life

Monday, April 5, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

Is it possible to make a case against abortion, and more importantly, for the importance of valuing human life in all stages of development, that does not rely upon theological assumptions?

This is a question that has undoubtedly bothered many pro-lifers since the abortion debate became one of the political fault lines of the United States. I am not concerned here with objections to pro-life policies and legislation that rest upon a fallacious interpretation of the First Amendment, and which falsely conflate a separation of church and state with a separation of religion and politics – which, if taken literally, would disenfranchise religious people.

Rather I am concerned with an objection to the pro-life philosophical position, namely that which asserts that this position is either partially or wholly dependent upon theology. Or, as the less precise like to say, “religion” – though I believe secular religions such as humanism, feminism, and even versions of Christianity that have virtually been stripped of their theological content are often employed to justify abortion.

Of course there are many individual secular points against abortion, and attempts have been made to construct full secular arguments. Many of these points and attempts, however, focus upon the life in the womb of a mother, and whether or not it deserves the same protection under the law as born persons. While these arguments are foundational and necessary, they may not be sufficient. A more robust secular case against abortion will help the pro-life cause.

Thus, I propose adding to the secular case against abortion by focusing on what I call the subversiveness of abortion, and to recast the pro-life position as the pro-society position. What is subversion? It is an effort to undermine institutions from within, to uproot and overturn them. Abortion was peddled to a society in turmoil on the grounds that its illegality was causing greater harm than would its legality. But its effect has been to drastically undermine a set of social relationships that I call organic social bonds, and to justify their replacement with what I call artificial social bonds, both to be explained below.

This is not the place to address whether or not the forces that are responsible for legalizing abortion in the United States were conscious or not of the subversiveness of abortion. Briefly I will say that I think it is reasonable to assume that some of them were, and that this is why they pursued it. Others had intentions entirely unrelated to subversion, and were sincere enough in their approach, their rhetoric and their actions. For the time being, the subversiveness of abortion refers mostly to the act of abortion itself, and not to the men and women who promote it.

A secular argument can be difficult to make against abortion because it is tantamount to reducing the Ten Commandments to the Seven Commandments by eliminating the three that govern man’s relationship with God. Indeed, I do not believe – nor did the American founders believe – that a stable society can long exist if man cannot acknowledge a being higher than himself. The 20th century confirms that acknowledgment of God has always lead to more freedom, happiness, and prosperity than has resulted from the replacement of God with a dictator, or theology with ideology, or a balance of spiritual and temporal authority with totalitarianism.

That being said, however, society might plod along at a functional level even without acknowledging God, though it may not last much longer than did the Soviet Union. And it is unfortunate, but true, that many people in our society simply do not believe in God, or if they do, they erroneously believe that he has no place in politics. And yet as pro-lifers, we wish to bring abortion to an end now, rather than some future date when the First Amendment is properly interpreted and a subversive minority of secular radicals does not hold sway over the court system. This means, ultimately, that we must construct secular arguments against abortion.

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The Lure of Authoritarianism

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 \PM\.\Wed\.

There seems an odd attraction towards Chinese-style authoritarianism among certain more technocratic/elitist segments of the left-leaning political elite. On the one hand we have we have people like Thomas Friedman arguing that Chinese one-party-autocracy is more efficient in passing the sort of regulations (“green” energy and nationalized health care) that he cares most about. On the other, we have Harold Meyerson’s claim that China is doing a better job of providing clean political process and economic recovery than the US, and that if Republicans don’t get in line behind Obama’s agenda the rest of the world will resolve to follow China’s autocratic example rather than American-style democracy.

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5th June, 1989 A.D.

Friday, June 5, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

Tianasquare
Sometimes one image serves to sum up an event in the world’s memory.  For the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, that image is probable the one of the “tank man” — a lone protester who was photographed on June 5th, 1989 when he briefly stood, unarmed, before a tank column and stopped it.

There is not agreement as to who the “tank man” was, and most reports suggest he was arrested by the secret police and executed within the next two weeks.

In those heady days, it seemed possible that within a few years communist dictatorship would be nothing more than a memory, but twenty years later the communist oligarchs in China have learned to accomodate freedom and enterprise enough to remain in power.  And the tank man’s dream remains unrealized.