Post-modern theology appears to fit comfortably with post-Christian secularism and humanism of the northern European and Northeastern American elites. The popularity of post-modern theology in establishment Protestant churches and divinity schools explains, at least partially, the close alliance in the Northeast between the church intellectuals and the media centers. This is the alliance that foamed protest over Mel Gibson's film, Passion of Christ.
How adequate is postmodern Christianity and postmodern Christian theology to recognizing and understanding Islam? I know this is a complicated question with some unpopular answers. The reaction to the thesis of Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch--that Islam is in essence a violent, extremist religion without theological moderation--demonstrates its dimensions. (Also consider Muslim hostility to Jews; see, James Arlandson, "Muhammad and the Jews", The American Thinker.)
Let me quote John Cobb, Jr., Christ in a Pluralistic Age ( Wipf and Stock, 1999), a major work in postmodern Christian theology. The quotation is long, because I want the penultimate claim in context.
The New Testament Christ does not embody a system of values. The New Testament does not offer an ethical code. Christ is a reality in terms of which one is called and empowered to act responsibly. Responsible action in the light of Christ ordinarily conforms to some generally recognized principle of morality, but the need is to discern the call of Christ in each particular situation. That is not decided by appeal to any established principle. It is to be determined in openness to the meaning of Christ for that situation. Where cultural values differ, there will be a difference of meaning. But the meaning will not be settled by the cultural values alone; for Christ has his own meaning. He is the not-yet-realized transforming the givenness of the past from a burden into a potentiality for new creation. Christ always means, regardless of what the cultural values are, that they must be relativized without being abrogated; that the believer lives toward the future rather than attempting to defend, repeat, or destroy the past; that each should be open to the neighbor, in whom also one meets the claim of Christ; and that the good in what is now happening is to be completed and fulfilled.[p.59.]
Cobb does not mean, in this summary of postmodern theology, that the Christian should be open to those neighbors who express the claim of Christ. He means that all religious neighbors--Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, etc.--express the claim of Christ (this is the point of the preceding chapters); therefore Christians should be open to them.
I do not know how carefully Cobb or other postmodern Christians have studied Islam; but Cobb's quotation points to the issue clearly.
Does Mohammedanism express the claim of Christ? Are postmodernists being too quick and glib in their assumption that it does? If they sincerely believe that the Muslim religion does express the claim of Christ, would not they then be incapable of seeing that Islam is essentially Jihadism, if indeed it is?
So Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch when professing his love for Katie Holmes. He's such an old-fashioned romantic, he believes in love, family, and children. So he said he knows more about the history of psychiatry than some entertainment reporter; he probably does. So he got annoyed when a British prankster stuck a fake microphone in his face and squirted him with water; what do you expect? Suppose it had been a gun; aren't there enough murderous morons out there to worry a celebrity in public (remember John Lennon)?
What is worthy in all this for ABC to do a special report Tuesday? And CNN Wednesday? And the New York Post to run a nasty editorial suggesting that Tom needs medication? Or movie-goers to snicker at his lines during scenes in War of Worlds?
Are they dissin' Scientology? Bad form, guys. Scientology is in a long--at this point hoary--American tradition of mind healing and mental self-help dating from the 1840s. Once Americans stopped believing in original and imputed sin, they got the notion that they could think themselves into any state of blissful health. The tradition includes Christian Science (dare you to diss that!), the Power of Positive Thinking, and numerous generations of American fascination with Buddhism.
Are they dissin' Tom's dissin' psychiatry? Bad form, guys. Tom is late to the game. Psychiatry's pill pushing has been criticized for decades. All psychiatrists do is prescribe pharmaceuticals after a half-hour interview and a questionnaire (full disclosure--I took both my son and my nephew to psychiatrists who saved their teenage souls with pills [thanks, docs!]). Psychiatrists don't do talk-therapy. You go to the few psychoanalysts [oops, mind cure again] left and MSW counselors for that. Don't you remember "Prozac nation"? And the ongoing controversy about overpresciption of Ritalin a few years ago? It is difficult to pick any women's health magazine (and there are zillions of these) without anti-psychiatry articles, mental self-help advice, and advertisements for herbal medicines--natural medicines in contrast to the laboratory synthetics used by psychiatry. And what about the New Age preoccupation with Native American spirituality and natural medicines? And, oh, let's not forget alternative medicines (full disclosure--I'm in alternative medicine treatment right now for a lifetime affliction of asthma). And aren't we upset about athletes using steroids for the same kind of reason that Tom is upset about putting kids on behavior modification medicines?
Maybe the media is dissin' Tom's demonstrative enthusiasm, you know, jumping up on a couch, calling a prankster a jerk, and gettin' in the face of some television interviewer? To be outraged about such minor infractions of decorum is itself outrageous! Let's see, where can we start. Oh, I know. Let's start with the behavior of athletes. Decades of temper tantrums on tennis courts, trash talk on the basketball court, swinging fist fights in baseball fields, scandals of athletes ranging hotels looking through windows and keyholes for "beaver". Ok, you think that's unfair of me to raise. How about musicians? Let's take public deportment of gangsta rappers. Has Tom murdered anyone at a party lately?
Tom Cruise looks in contrast like quite the nice gentleman. Katie is lucky.
A Christian has faith. I do not have faith. Standing between me and faith is my intellectual pride. Whatever I might try to do or to think, I find I cannot let go of my effort to understand anything and everything. I know the psychological reasons for this pride. I know that I have trained myself, prepared myself; but my positioning does not matter. I say the same when I say I do not trust. I try, but I cannot take the leap. Perhaps I shouldn't try?
President Bush's address last night, defending the war in Iraq in the context of the global war on Jihadist terror, was written with the guidance of Karl Rove, not Winston Churchill. For the political needs of the moment, Rove was the appropriate adviser.
There is virtually no possibility, except within the situation created by a terrorist nuclear strike against Manhattan or DC, where a Churchillian speech given by the President could bring the mass of Democratic Party voters and critics of his policy to his side. The political game we are in now is the game of percentages, not paradigm shifts. This is Rove's game; trust him.
The President needs to chip away at the Democratic opposition. A few percentage points of Democratic voters who swing to support the war is all he can get here, then a few more points a few months from now (say after the constitution is written), then more points a few months later (after the constitution is accepted and a government elected), and so on.
Like most conservative supporters of the War, I understand the policy rationale that makes the War necessary. I admire the President's courage and political willingness to lead the nation on the path he has taken. I admire his ability not to let the incessant heckling, personal attacks on his character, and the irresponsible head-in-the-sand opposition of the Democratic Party get to him. He keeps his cool under fire. I too would like to see a barn-burner of a Churchillian speech that overpowers opposition with its soaring rhetoric, calls to patriotism and duty, and sacrifice. Today, however, that speech would be wasted. It would be rejected by harping opponents, just as the speech last night was.
If the President's foreign policy strategy and political strategy are successful, if the precautions of homeland security are successful, and if we are providentially lucky, the President will never have to come to the podium, grim-faced, struggling with sorrow, to make the speech Churchill would make at that moment. Let us pray for the game of percentages.
The US Supreme Court ruled, June 27, that enforcement of a restraining order was not mandatory and that the holder of an order could not sue city police for failing to enforce it. The details of the case are horrible. Because police did not enforce a domestic violence restraining order, the estranged husband murdered a woman's three children. Was this a proper decision?
I asked my resident legal resource. Her opinion is, yes, the decision is proper and wise. Aside from the constitutional issues whether the woman had a vested property right or entitlement to mandatory enforcement (which the SCOTUS rules she did not), practical considerations are crucial in law enforcement. I thought her reason was interesting. This is how I would state the issue.
As a sad truth, a significant percentage of accusations of domestic violence, spousal abuse, and child abuse are false. The reason for false allegations is that the law gives preference not only to protecting persons (gender neutral here--a significant percentage of actual domestic violence is committed by women against men) but to custody and property for victims of domestic violence. This preference leads to frequent false accusations as a tactic in legal disputes between estranged and divorced couples.
The same thing happens when restraining orders are issued. The holder of the order will have an interest in making a false accusation to bring the police to the scene to get the police to decide the dispute on her/his side.
In other words, as we have said before in posts, some laws are framed so that they encourage false allegations of the conduct they seek to prevent. The accuser is not held responsible for false accusations. She/he obtains significant legal and practical advantages by making the false accusations. She/he has power. We see significant numbers of false allegations of sexual harassment under sexual harassment law for the same reason.
People make false allegations to get restraining orders and false allegations to obtain enforcement of restraining orders all the time, because people lie. Everyone lies sometimes. A lot of people lie often and without compunction. Some people lie all the time about everything. A true statement never passes their lips. If the Court had not ruled as it did in Castle Rock v Gonzales, many people would have a new, positive inducement to lie a lot more.
In this situation, if police had no discretion whether to enforce a restraining order, they would be unable to decline to enforce a call for enforcement they believed was false. Trying to respond to all calls for enforcement of restraining orders, law enforcement in general would break down. No police would be available to deal with other kinds of crimes or disorder. Let's look at Sprawling Suburb as a case.
In Sprawling Suburb, a city of nearly 300,000 persons, only seventeen police cars are on patrol late at night, so I recall reading.
Each year, about 5000 (est.) temporary restraining orders are issued in the family law courts alone for the city (not counting restraining orders issued by the criminal courts--perhaps another 3000). The orders have different terms, but can be for three years. On any given day or night, there are thousands of active restraining orders out in the community.
For domestic violence emergencies related to restraining orders, two police teams (vehicles and officers) are often sent to the scene. Each response might require one to two hours. The arithmetic provides only eight response teams available at any time to deal with restraining order calls. Each team might be able to manage four crises a night.
What do you think would happen if holders of those orders knew they could compel police to come to them upon their request?
What do you think would happen to other kinds of law enforcement (robbery, traffic, fire, assault, fights, gang problems, murder, crowd control, etc.) in the city if they could?
Civil order would disintegrate, as criminals and opportunists for disorder realized that no police would be available to confront them. Domestic violence, against which restraining orders are in force, would increase also, because individuals would here, too, know there would likely be no police available to respond to their provocations. The law--had the Court ruled differently in Castle Rock v Gonzales--would encourage the kind of behavior it was intended to prevent.
I was channel surfing on cable. I paused briefly on E! Entertainment. Two men, movie reviewers and media commentators, were discussing the buzz on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. One said, all guys would love to go to bed with Angelina. The other said, but you know, half the heterosexual women I have talked to would like to go to bed with her, too.
What does it mean that heterosexual women want to make love with a woman whom they know only as a movie and commercial publicity image? Is it time to call some French literary critic in Paris for a theory for this phenomenon? What's your take on this? Why?
Maybe the answer was given by a woman porn star who was asked in an interview that I saw (cable channel surfing again, on HBO I think), what she thought about the lesbian sex scenes she had to perform (as contrasted to the sex scenes she performed with men). She replied, well, you know their breath will smell sweet.
No one should read the New Yorker, the publisher of fiction and cartoons, for responsibly intelligent political opinion. The magazine is notoriously Left of liberal in its editorial politics. It's Leftist ideology appears in the current issue (June 27, 2005) in canards about the Cold War in Louis Menand's New Yorker review of a biography of Herman Kahn (author of "On Thermonuclear Warfare", 1960). Louis concludes his review with the following pastiche of Communist apologetics:
What drove the Cold War, though, was not business or science. It was the factor that is supposedly bracketed off in systems analysis [as done by Kahn for the Rand think-tank]: politics--the opportunities for partisan gain made available by gesturing toward the ubiquitous shadow of an overwhelming emergency. And the manipulation was not all on one one side. If the United States assigned the Soviets the role of mechanized Enemy Other, the Soviets did their best to play to it. The occasional hyperbole of the Committee of the Present Danger was nothing compared with the bluster of Khrushchev and Gromyko, men who had their own domestic constituencies to worry about. It served both sides in the Cold War to take each other's rhetoric at face value. We have yet to learn how not to do this.
This brief paragraph contains several post-modern cliches applied to the Leftist revision of Cold War history. All communication (talking, language, literature, written and performed texts) is circular signing. A person communicates by performance of referencing. The referencing is done by pointing (i.e., making a sign) to whatever it is that is being talked about. The referent can only be (French literary theorists sternly instruct us) another sign, that is, the pointing of some one else to you. Concentrations of power in society lead to language being grammatically structured around binary oppositions. Typical binary oppositions are I (me)/you, we/them, ego/other, friend/enemy, good/bad, man/woman, male/female, nature/nurture, natural/unnatural, true/false, black/white. These binaries facilitate manipulating the beliefs of audiences (voters, in this case), so that the audiences support the powers that be. The consequence of this construction is that meaning cannot refer to an objective reality. Meaning refers only to itself. Truth is not correspondence to reality. Objective tests of meaning are not possible.
Menand's concluding paragraph contains important post-modern catchwords: "gesturing", "Other", "play", "rhetoric". The Cold War was theatrical performance. The politician, intellectuals, and other actors pointed to each other, who were pointing to them. ("The occasional hyperbole of the Committee on the Present Danger was nothing compared with the bluster of Khrushchev and Gromyko, men who had their own domestic constituencies to worry about.") It was empty theater, Menand says (as the post-modernists say all theater is empty). In the 1950s, the Soviet Union did not have the capability to deliver the nuclear weapons or to conduct the war for which Kahn and other Cold War analysts were preparing a defense.
Why go through with all this empty theater? Here is where the Marxists hitched a free ride on the back of post-modernism. The purpose of the theater was to obtain political and financial support for the defense industry, that is, for the capitalist class--the infamous "military-industrial complex".
Since the Cold War was a false war, according to Menand's Leftist/post-modern revisionist interpretation, everybody would have been better off it we had disbelieved the Cold War "rhetoric". Of course, he says, we still, today, can't disbelieve such rhetoric ("We have yet to learn how not to do this."). Why? The implied answer is Marxist--because the capitalist class, which owned/owns the military-industrial complex, is still in power.
This Cold War revisionism is a farrago of self-deluded Communist nonsense. Its scholarly underpinning was provided by a generation (1960s-1990s) of American Marxist Progressives, Communists, and Stalinists (to pay attention to the shadings of dangerous delusion). They denied, so as to hide, the patent reality of the international communist movement active since the 1890s, of Stalin's ambitions, of Soviet expansionism in Europe and Asia, of Soviet support of Communist China, North Korea, Cuba, and the north Vietnamese, of Soviet incitement of anti-American/anti-Western politics and guerrilla warfare around the world, and of Soviet hostility to the United States. Fear is not paranoid and call to arms is not rhetoric when the threat is real.
Menand's employment of the notion of communication as empty theatrics is appropriate in one way. It is appropriate in New Yorker, a magazine of fiction and cartoons.
I am one who is relieved at the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be President of Iran. He has denied the necessity of relations with us--the United States--and with Israel. He has vowed to support continued development of Irans "peaceful" nuclear industry. If Rafsanjani had won the run-off, there would have been more self-delusion about Iran's terrorist and nuclear weapon path, on the part of European and MSM American media, who have dubbed Rafsanjani to be a "moderate." Our preparation for extended military intervention in Iran should proceed without optimism.