Reader Mail

Paradise Lust

The tree of "sexual knowledge." Escapes from Taxachusetts. Mexican fencing. Hirsi Ali's Holland. Plus much more.

5.22.06

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IS ORIGINAL SIN SEXUAL?
Re: the "Forbidden Fruit" letters in Reader Mail's Bush Out-Foxed and Yale Kramer's Paradise Regained:

I have been rightfully challenged by readers on the editorial liberty I took when I referred to the tree of "Sexual Knowledge" in a recent posting. The reference was not relevant to the central point of the piece but because it caught the eyes of several friendly readers I feel compelled to explain my view on this interesting matter.

First I believe that part of the tradition of Biblical scholarship entails the notion that the Bible is characterized by ambiguous and contrary statements. And this accounts for the wealth of various conflicting interpretations -- interpretations which have been carried down through the centuries.

Secondly, the whole episode which led to Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden seems to refer to sexual issues throughout. Before they taste the fruit of the tree Adam and Eve appear to be innocent and the main sign of their innocence is their freedom from shame in their nakedness. In fact it is their shame -- their hiding -- that gives their transgression away to God. Their shame also requires them to hide their genitals from God and each other with aprons. If this doesn't suggest sexually conflicted feelings I don't know what does.

Thirdly, how does God punish Eve for her transgression? By inflicting on her a punishment that is only related to sexual congress: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children...."

Lastly, the noun "knowledge" and the verb "to know" have more than one meaning in the Bible. In Genesis 4:1 one finds "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain...."

But I believe also that there is much room for disagreement in the world of the Bible.
-- Yale Kramer

MASS. REFUGEES
Re: Andrew Cline's Mass. Exodus:

I enjoyed Andrew Cline's article on Massachusetts's continuing decline. I revel in it! I would suggest however, that Mr. Cline take another look at the county-by-county maps of the 2004 election results. My up-until-then staunchly Republican State of New Hampshire went for Jean-Francois Kerry, propelled by voting results in the two counties bordering Taxachusetts and one along the Vermont border. Fie on these uprooted Flatlanders...
-- Gene Smith
Contoocook, New Hampshire

I had an idyllic childhood in a small historical town in Massachusetts. My wife and I left Massachusetts for good 14 years ago. Since then we have lived in four different states. In every place we have lived, we have encountered many other Mass. refuges including comrades in the military, classmates in grad school, co-workers, and neighbors. Almost all of them seem to be fiscal conservatives, social moderates like myself.

We left for better job opportunities and affordable housing. We still follow the Red Sox and Patriots. We still have family there and return regularly to visit. We all miss our beloved Massachusetts but most of us will never return permanently. We are truly Massachusetts' greatest export.
-- Chris B.

I left in 1981 for Texas. My salary doubled and I could buy a home for $60,000. What for can a person want? Massachusetts can keep their Kennedy's in office, good luck to them. Just do not get in a car with one of them.
-- John Bee, ex-Pat from Taxachusetts
Lake Jackson, Texas

MEXICAN FENCING
Re: Paul Chesser's Cracks in the Crack-Down:

One must believe the Washington Post. It prints the Democrat viewpoint and only the Democrat viewpoint. What is very sad is that the message is consistent and is spread by the Democrat leadership and their hundreds of media outlets. The message is that some problems are just too difficult to solve. This small problems-are-the-only-ones-we-can-solve is certainly given the lie by the history of this great nation and its people.

Today's Democrat leaders would find many of the significant and successful past undertakings of our people much too difficult and thus not worthy of the least attempt. Can't you just hear Harry Reid, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and the newly addlebrained Rep. Murtha?

The invasion of Europe is way too difficult. Why they have all these concrete bunkers and machine guns -- people will be killed. Let's wait until Hitler dies. The Germans will come back to their senses then. Build a railroad that completely crosses the country? Impossible. Cure polio? My sweet little country mouse, polio has been with us forever. There's nothing we can do about that. But I have an idea. Socialized medicine seems to have failed everywhere it's been tried, so let's do that. It may ruin health care in America, but our cronies and big donors can all be given high paying, important consultant jobs. Of course, we'll exempt Congress from the nationalized system just like we did from social security so it won't hurt us. Isn't that a good idea? OK so we're agreed?"

God save us from poor, timid, cowardly souls. Oops! Sorry. May the incorporeal, perhaps nonexistent, male or female supernatural force which may, or may not, have had anything to do with creation save us from poor, timid, cowardly souls. Don't want to offend anyone.
-- Jay W. Molyneaux
Wellington, Florida

Kind of Mr. Chesser to refer to this cosmic joke coming out of Congress as a "crack-down." I keep waiting for someone to awaken me with the news that this has all been an extended Mad TV skit, and that the U.S. really hasn't been overrun by Mexicans with the kind help of the United States President and Congress. Or, perhaps it's still April first and this is all a gigantic prank being played on all of us work-a-day slobs who have been slugging away to make a life for ourselves and our families.

I keep asking myself: Is it possible for a President and a Congress to be this OUT OF TOUCH with ordinary Americans? Do these politicians really believe that this Western Hemisphere Truck Stop that they are creating is what the majority of Americans want? I am at a loss trying to believe that these people, including the President, are acting in good conscience. If I am wrong, then they are as close to brain dead as human beings can get. If you gave a five year-old a bag of M and M's, told him to share them with his family, then, as he began to divide them, bussed in a gang of strangers who immediately demanded equal shares, what do you suppose the five year-old would do? Quick! Somebody get that five year-old to Washington and ask him to explain this situation to those trip-taking, speech-making, vacation-taking, pension-breaking slugs we call leaders. Unless it is too late. If it is, then God help us all.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

Finally!! Someone that is willing to look at what is really happening around here! I live in Yuma and have for almost 27 years now. I was a U.S. Marine, and darn proud of it too, m ay I say, for almost 10 years of that time, and I have enough anecdotal evidence of what is going on here to fill a book. I know for a fact that as the Feds close up the borders elsewhere, the illegals move to where the Fed's, including the Border Patrol, aren't. That's Yuma, among many others. The capture of illegal aliens, or as I prefer to call them, the Mexican Invasion and Occupation Army, has increased amazingly over the last several years. I can't spout numbers, but I CAN look around myself. This is only a boom-town for those who cater and cow-tow to the illegals. We have grocery stores where, if I go in, I can feel the hatred directed at me for beings a Caucasian. Auto parts stores where, if I didn't speak Spanglish, I couldn't get anything done, restaurants, the list is endless. The signs and stickers in these places are Spanish FIRST, with an English version smaller and beneath if at all. My neighbor, when I bought the land I am living on, was a rather psychotic nut case who was so bad the sheriff's deputies wouldn't come out to see unless they stopped and put on their body armor. Now, 10 years later, the place is a trailer park with the trailers disgusting heaps, most of which look to be older than I am, piles of cars, home appliances and so on, open sewage pits, trash being thrown on my property, filthy children out of school, packs of canines who like to come onto my property. In other words, it's a microcosm of a Mexican town....
-- unsigned

Mr. Chesser's article is very well timed. Any nation that cannot control its borders against the infiltration of over 500,000 foreigners per year, is not worthy of the notion of a sovereign nation. Any bureaucrat in any part of the border enforcement community that can not, or will not, do their job effectively should quit their job or be fired. My any bureaucrat is meant to include prosecutors and judges as well as the Border Patrol management. Any federal elected official that refuses to enforce our immigration laws and/or control our borders should be impeached for failure to fulfill their oath of office. My any federal elected official specifically includes George Bush. What do you suppose Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing would think of George Bush?

George Bush and Vicente Fox -- Mi Amigos Forever
-- Ken Shreve

The number of people who want to come to America is more a function of the conditions in the country where they start their journey. Any American policy that calculates the optimum immigration level based on the logical internal needs of the USA will always mismatch the bigger economic picture.

It is only marginally easier to say "no" to an economic refugee than a war refugee. A U.S. law that permits less immigration than the foreign demand created ignores an implied moral dilemma: Does a policy or law restrain an obligation to help as long as we have that capacity? Can we maintain that capacity as long as we add to our population those who have no positive expectation of reform and no respect for U.S. law?

Haiti already has a natural saltwater fence around it. President Fox has estimated that the time required to reform Mexico as "generations." Was that with or without the fence?
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

WEEPING FOR HIRSI ALI
Re: Christopher Orlet's The Truth About Ayaan:

I don't even know where to begin. Christopher Orlet gets it wrong and then continues to simply get it wrong.

First, he implies, for some strange reason, that Theo Van Gogh is dead because he was not afforded the same protection as a politician, and thus ended up dead. But what he doesn't say, because he probably simply doesn't know, is that Theo was offered the same protection as Ayaan and he refused; this lack of protection was his own choice. Convenient interpretation #1.

Second, he continues with one side's version of the story currently playing out, namely that she lied on her asylum application. True, however, again those pesky facts are simply discounted; that she came clean about all of this many years ago. On the first page of her 2002 book of essays does she come forward with her real name. Not only that, but her email address in the parliament is her real last name. Not really the type of behavior one is used to coming from a person with something to hide. Convenient interpretation #2.

Third, he then maligns the Minister Verdonk as "caving" and more resembling jello than iron. But this is what's really happened: the Parliament calls an immediate emergency debate. They then skewer the Minister for her complete lack of compassion (not the first time Iron Rita has rendered a decision making her out to be heartless, this response to Ayaan is merely a logical following of her cold heartlessness; she didn't learn anything as the Prison Warden that she once was). For eleven hours the Parliament attempts to get Rita to reconsider, to which she refuses until 2:30 a.m.; a situation generally unheard of. (Out of 149 members of Parliament, exactly two offer her support.) Finally, under threat of Parliament issuing a motion that the Minister should step down, she relents. The following evening, during a campaign rally for the leadership of her party (a win in next year's elections would be followed by Iron Rita becoming Prime Minister), she clearly indicates her hands are tied and she can do nothing for Hirsi Ali. This then results in her being called in by the Prime Minister and told that she will carry out the Parliament's orders under his direct supervision. This hardly strikes me as characteristic of jello. Fact is, the Minister is simply following the polls in deciding her position and utterly ignoring all sides of the government, the administration, the Parliament, as well as the courts, in carrying out her own personal agenda.

(Not to mention what's left out: that her campaign manager has trained in Washington under the Republican wing of political campaign tactics: it all fairly reeks of Karl Rove in the background.)

In short, Christopher Orlet has no place making comments on subjects in which he does not (or does not want to) regard the background facts in making his interpretation interesting and valid. He, like so many journalists working from the position that they have an opinion that's interesting, simply starts with his own conclusion and weaves the facts as he pleases to prove his personal point.

As an American living in Amsterdam, this sort of commentary is exactly the type of article which adds fuel to the sorts of situations currently playing out here; conclusions rendered not based on all the facts, but based on only those facts convenient for one's own personal use.

And here, Mr. Christopher Orlet simply reveals himself to be a liar. No better, then, than any other human on the planet since I assume we can all agree that not a single person has never lied. And most certainly no better than a refugee who lied to escape one kind of prison who unwittingly entered into a process in which she ultimately and simply entered into another kind of prison.

Live under the threat of death 24 hours a day, year after year, Mr. Orlet, and then maybe you too might be qualified to say something interesting on this subject. Until then, or until you can get your facts straight and are thus able to render conclusion based on logic instead of your own personal agenda, shut up and stop giving your unwitting readers the impression you have anything interesting to say.

I fled the U.S. for the crap that continues to unfold there, Mr. Orlet's opinion merely the most recent example I can cite, and thought I had found a better place. Wrong, it resembles America more and more with each missed opportunity to respond in a different way to the world reality we all must suffer.

Hirsi Ali resigned the Parliament on Tuesday and I cried, cried for my personal loss of having found what I thought was a society based on humaneness, and cried for Hirsi Ali herself who, for being the vessel of truth that she is, continues to suffer and be forced down what must be the loneliest journey a human can make, never once, not even once, complaining in the process.

Everything this is nothing less than a battle of truth, and in my world, the truth always wins out, regardless the number of people assassinated to prevent its emergence.

It is a dark day for democracy, one which will be remembered in the future of Dutch politics as the day everything changed.

Feeling more lost than ever,
-- Richard Boaz
Amsterdam

I need not tell you how revolting this entire business of revoking Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Dutch citizenship is. As you may or may not know, not only are they threatening to take away her passport she has also been ordered by court, on request of her neighbors, to leave her home. This is the first home she has had for many years and the reason her neighbors want her to leave is because she is a threat to their safety. After all, Islamic terrorists want to kill her and her neighbors fear to get caught in the crossfire. Sixty years have passed but not much has changed. People still ask the police to remove their persecuted neighbors instead of giving them shelter. And why not? Human beings are followers and in this case they simply follow the behavior of their leaders. Nobody inspires them to behave any better. The irony is that Holland is a country where everybody loves to talk about solidarity without showing any. Like Pim Fortuyn, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has shouted "fire" in a building that is burning and people hate her for it.

After the murder of Theo van Gogh I remember quite a few American columnists writing that Holland would finally wake up to the threat of radical Islam. They couldn't have been more wrong. Instead of waking up to the threat, Holland preferred to respond to it by going into coma. Maybe the differences between the U.S. and Europe are so big that it has become impossible for you to understand how people think here. This is a very individualistic society -as is yours- but because the notion of a collective is not stimulated nations in Europe seem to behave like individuals. Just think of the rioting French students. If I am only an individual with rights and not a member of a society to which I owe my liberty and wealth, then why should I be asked to sacrifice anything? Have you ever heard of Sylvia Millecam? She was a Dutch actress who was diagnosed with breast cancer but she let herself be convinced it was some sort of virus. She ignored the threat, ignored it despite all symptoms. She did that because it's easier not to deal with a life threatening disease than it is to face up to the fact that in order to stay alive you must fight a battle which you might loose. Faced with such a future it is tempting to believe that what is a threat is not and what is not a threat is. If you managed to understand the meaning of this rambling sentence I just explained to you why people prefer to hate America.

I'm not an American but I'm not much of an European either. In 1993 I made the decision to move to Israel and I lived there until 2002. One of the differences between the peoples of the Middle East and the Europeans is their different attitude towards the past. The European view of the past is that of a line, the Islamic and Jewish view the past that of a circle. It may be the cause of a lot of our troubles but it gives us a sense of who we are, where we're from and where we're going to. The Europeans believe the past is gone and that they have no relation to it. Jews and Muslims believe they are the continuation of the past. With that notion comes a feeling of responsibility and I think Americans -with their secular state religion- share that view of the past. The Europeans are the odd man out. They don't understand the power of religion, the pull of ideology and the dynamics of fanaticism. This is why they tend to ignore it.

Now the question is how this has come about and the answer lies in the past. Specifically the experience of the two world wars and the lessons we learned from it. I don't need to explain the history so let me just quickly tell you what I mean. After World War I the Western Democracies were convinced they should never go to war again. This may have been a breakthrough in our history but the timing was not right. It's not just that pacifism in the face of tyranny is an abdication of responsibility. "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist," wrote George Orwell. "This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other....In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'" It's interesting to see a contemporary George say the exact same thing ("You are either with us or against us") and be ridiculed for it. Those European countries that gave Germany a chance to rearm and that sacrificed their allies to Germany never had to take responsibility for their acts. Nor did the Soviet Union ever have to take responsibility for allowing the destruction of the second front in 1940. Or for the simple fact -- conveniently forgotten -- that the Second World War started with a joint attack on Poland by the Soviet Union and Nazi-Germany after they had formed a military and economic alliance. So it was Germany and Germany alone which was condemned for causing the war and committing genocide even though many nations helped her along on the road to disaster. The lesson that the Americans and the Jews learned was that appeasement is wrong and that tyranny must be opposed. If we don't oppose it we will have to deal with it under much worse circumstances. Even though we cannot always live up to it, this has been a guiding principle for the United States of America and for the State of Israel.

But think about Europe, what did it learn from that period? Only Germany had to accept the blame and the lesson is clear: Abandon your allies and you will get away with it. It learned that doing nothing in the face of aggression is not a crime. Sacrificing Czechoslovakia was not a crime nor was closing the borders of Palestine when millions of Jews were in mortal danger. Even being an ally of Nazi Germany and starting the Second World War together with her is not something to be ashamed of. And in a way this has become the foundation of International Law. Doing nothing is not a crime. This is how Kofi Annan can come to the conclusion that the invasion of Iraq was illegal whereas what is truly illegal was to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power. I just heard that Romano Prodi said that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. He doesn't understand that this is only so if the U.S. looses the conflict. Instead of making sure the US doesn't, all he does is to come to the conclusion it's better not to act.

People relate to 1945 as if it is a kind of year zero and for a while maybe it was. We consider it a year zero because it was the start of a new world order which we foolishly believe was due to the creation of the United Nations and International Law. But in fact the stability of that post war period was solely created by the balance between the USSR and the U.S. We all know this but people seem to ignore the only possible logical conclusion that with the fall of the USSR we have returned to pre-WWII chaos. For a while we fooled ourselves into believing that Europe could be the soft-power replacement of the Soviet Union in order to counter balance the United States of America. As if holding America in check would somehow bring stability. We forgot that the world is much larger than just the major players of the Cold War. With the fall of the Soviet Union those areas of the world which were once our playground are waking up. And those nations aren't exactly democratic. When Mikhail Gorbachev got a letter from Khomeini offering him to convert to Islam most people thought it was a joke. But now that an Islamic superpower based on Jihad power is emerging very few people find such letters still reason for amusement. Those who do are making a very serious mistake.

For many centuries Arabs, Africans and Asians used to be our sub-humans which we exploited. Since the decolonalization we consider them to be people who need our help. Basically not much has changed, from the past to the present we regard them as less than our equals. I know America is not perfect, far from it, but with two black secretaries of state at least there is a basic understanding that African-Americans are as much Americans as any other U.S. citizen. We see the same dynamic between Jews in Israel where Moroccan Jews have achieved high positions in government. As long as there is a shared vision, a notion of a collective destiny, people can come together. Here in Holland we invented the term Allochtoon, kind of like a non-aboriginal if you like. No matter what you do, no matter how many generations pass you can never change from being an Allochtoon into being an Autochtoon. They went through the motions of being an immigrant society without actually becoming one. What happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali is proof of this. Here we have a woman who received the Freedom Award of Nova Civitas, the Freedom Prize of the Danish Liberal Party, the Norwegian Bellwether prize, the Moral Courage Award of the American Jewish Committee, the Swedish Democracy prize. A woman who was elected by Readers Digest to be European of the year 2006, put on Time's list of the 100 most influential personalities and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet more than 50 percent of the Dutch felt she should loose her Dutch nationality because she used her mother's name. This is fundamentalism of a different kind and it explains to me why Europeans find it easier to believe the CIA is behind the 9/11 attacks than to accept the fact that colored people can be our equals.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's criticism of Islam is to be taken seriously as Iran's nuclear Islamic ambitions are to be taken seriously. If you do not consider these people to be your equals you do not need to know how dangerous Iran is. In that case it is also better for Ayaan Hirsi Ali to shut up because all she does is waking you up from your slumber. Let the silly Muslims shoot their daughters if they want, what do we care? The reason why we should care is because they are our equals. And as equals they are just as dangerous as we are. So it makes sense to insist they behave reasonable and humane. If they don't, we're all in trouble. This is not a pleasant conclusion which is why it is preferable to pretend that everything is just fine. That it's not cancer and that we need to blame America, or the Jewish lobby, and hope it's a virus.

I thank you for your time. But most of all I thank America for extending a helping hand to this magnificent person. Holland will regret her leaving, I am sure.

With kind regards
-- Daniel Teeboom

AN UPHILL KEYSTONE BATTLE
Re: David Holman's Toomey Defeats Specter:

I am so mad at Murtha and have been for a while. Who is running against him in his district and do they have a chance!! I'll contribute...
-- Karen McCullough
Madison, Alabama

The article refers to the race between Democratic Governor Ed Rendell and Republican challenger Lynn Swann. The best thing Swann can do is to keep reminding Pennsylvania voters that in the '04 presidential election Rendell machinated like crazy to keep the absentee ballots of soldiers serving overseas (presumably tilting heavily Republican) from being counted. In other words Rendell tried to disenfranchise those who are defending this country, and he relented only after a firestorm of protest. How the man still retains any respect is beyond me; certainly he hasn't a shred of dignity.
-- Chuck Vail

Mr. Holman, and of course Mr. Toomey, may be on to something. I would heartily wish their view of the electoral landscape were the correct one. Unfortunately, you cannot defeat someone with no one. President George Bush has been equally culpable in the battle to keep conservative Republicans off the ballot. He went to the mat for Specter against Toomey.

He is working hand in hand with the RNC at defeating Chafee's more conservative challenger in the GOP primary fight in Rhode Island.

While Ms. Harris looks like a lost cause in Florida, would the polls look the same for her now if the Bush White House machine had gotten behind her from the beginning? I think not. Ms. Harris stood tall for the law AND for George Bush in 2000. She also reluctantly backed down from challenging Bush choice of Martinez for the other Florida Senate seat. Too bad that Bush could not summon the grace to be as loyal to Ms. Harris.

In short, Bush is as big a part of the problem for conservatives as the Dems are. Mr. Bush is a Rockefeller, country club Republican. The fact that there are some Republicans even further to the left does not invalidate Bush's membership in the Rockefeller club. I stand by my judgment that Bush is actually embarrassed to be identified with conservative Republicans.

Mr. Bush stands with the conservative groups on religion, taxes, judges, and the sanctity of our military establishment. The list of issues where he departs from us is both long and serious. He has also absented himself from the debate to confirm his judges once he has nominated them.

I wish Mr. Toomey, and all the Club for Growth folks nothing but the greatest of success. They will get my money long before the RNC will.

As for Mr. Swann, I truly wish him the best in his race. I do wish that he had shown himself to be a bit more astute in his primary endorsements, however. Rendell is a tough, smart, dedicated, ruthless, machine politician. Swann defeating him is going to take the next thing to a miracle, but Lynn needs something to do beside roaming the sidelines at football games.
-- Ken Shreve

THE YOUNG ARE THOSE WHO LAUGH
Re: R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s Tom Wolfe -- Aha! and Reader Mail's Youth Is Served:

I appreciated the recitation of Tom Wolfe's commentary and the obvious esteem that Mr. Tyrrell holds for the young whippersnapper, but given that Mr. Wolfe holds an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University, I would have expected no less!
-- unsigned

Wherein lies the modern intellectual's intellect?
Does it include speaking only in marble-mouthed dialect?

Pontificating pounces spouting Liberal platitudes
Reflect their obsolete octogenarian attitudes.

In seeking Tom Wolfean or Bob Tyrrellian wit,
I find very few writers or academics who have it.

Age is an elusive thing, forget the math.
Youth is on the side of those who can laugh.
-- Mimi Winship

TRUMAN THE BELIEVER
Re: Jeffrey Lord's The Conservative Victory in 2006 and the "What Conservative Progress?" letters in Reader Mail's Youth Is Served:

Umm... well, Mr. Lord, I certainly feel better now, I think.

I'm inclined to agree with your thesis, and have said as much in my responses to other TAS contributors. But, something is missing. Truman didn't simply recognize the liberal paradigm as still intact, he believed in the liberal paradigm, and acted accordingly and consistently. And, as you say, "it made GOP converts," which by the way, we have to this day, clinging to it still.

In what paradigm, though, exactly, does President Bush believe? If it is in the conservative paradigm he believes, is he acting accordingly and consistently, other than taxes and the War on Terror (the Education bill, the Medicare prescription drug plan, the immigration debacle, all come to mind)? If the Democrats win the Congress in November, can we expect them to concede the conservative paradigm, like so many in the GOP conceded the liberal paradigm?

If President Bush believed in the conservative paradigm as much as Truman believed in the liberal paradigm, I'd be a lot more confident in the paradigm factor itself. But, if a Republican President, elected under the circumstances in which Mr. Bush was elected (the debacle of the Clinton years), can't find a way to fully embrace the only alternative to national destruction we have, and get the nation to follow him, what good is the paradigm?

This paradigm business gives me a headache.
-- Mike Showalter
Austin, Texas

FUKUYAMATHINK
Re: Robert T. McLean's Fulton in Moscow:

While it is good to see growing concern regarding Russia's attitude toward the West (and the undisputed leader of the West -- the United States), it is rather disheartening to see blobs of "Fukayamathink" pervade almost every analytical piece written on the topic.

By "Fukayamathink," I mean the traditional idea that we won the Cold War with the weapons of democracy and freedom, and that those two things will spread worldwide because (a) everyone can see their obvious superiority and (b) it is the "end of human history" to finally live together in peace in some kind of global, democratic brotherhood of man.

I think history demonstrates that for a nation to put faith in such utopian ideals is to be self-delusional, and even suicidal. Perhaps someone needs to write a book called "Suicide of the West, Part II." Our Founders certainly had no such faith, and designed a form of government upon a healthy skepticism of those ideals.

It seems to me, more and more clearly as time goes by, that Russia never intended to become a democracy. Whether that is true or not though is not as important as seeing her true intentions now. Russia is intent on making the U.S. and the West into an Evil Empire from an Eastern perspective, so when (not if) they strike the West, along with China, Iran, N. Korea, and whoever else has joined the Hate America club (nations in Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America, etc.), they will seem justified at least in their own eyes, if not the eyes of the rest of the world.

They will use, as was quoted in McLean's article, asymmetrical warfare, which both they and China have been perfecting and exporting for decades. Always this warfare is used against the West. Who needs to win a Cold War with nuclear arms if the same result can be achieved by other means, such as an economic attack, or attack by proxy via Islam? (Is Russia really our ally against Islamic terrorism? Russian FSB have been shown to be the main instigators of terrorism in Chechnya and other places in and around Russia. See the book Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within, by Yuri Felstinsky and Alexander Litvenenko.)

If anyone is in doubt about the advanced stage of the strategic alliance against the West, one only needs to do a little research into the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO). While it is almost certain that the old USSR will not resurrect itself, something perhaps much more dangerous is in the making.

Trying to convince Russia that it has nothing to fear from the West is not what we should be doing. We should be trying to convince the West that it has something to fear from Russia. By herself, perhaps not. But Russia does not act alone. Why all the wargames with China in recent years? Why all the blustering against the West, stirring the Russian people to mistrust and even hate the United States? Is it merely "hegemony envy"? Or is it a second chance to bury the West, once and for all? Dismissal of such a thought is not to be done quickly, especially when considering that war and conquest is the way of nations (especially non-Western nations) throughout much of history.
-- Mark Pettifor
Goshen, Indiana

READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Re: Lisa Fabrizio's and Russell Seitz's exchange (under "Clement and John") in Reader Mail's What Bush Comeback?:

Guys, however improbably, there is one thing on which TAS may have driven Lisa Fabrizio and myself (Letters 18 May) to unite in despair -- whoever wrote the headline placing our exchange under the rubric "Clement of Alexandria." Must have been having a bad heresy day -- a century here, a century there, and before long you end up with the book of Mormon.

Please note the unsubtle distinction between: "I Clement," who may have been the third or fourth 1st century Bishop of Rome, the lack of primary sources makes it hard to say if or when; "Clement of Alexandria," the late second or early third century figure whose authorship of the Stromatides seems pretty clear; and last but not least, Codex Alexandrinus, a Greek uncial manuscript of the fifth century you can peruse in the British Museum .
-- Russell Seitz

OVERCOMPENSATING
Re: Ben Stein's Stop the Scapegoating:

Someone forwarded me your article on the current high oil prices that turn into high gasoline prices at the pump. While I understand your explanation, I'd be the first to admit I am not an economist nor a free market analyst. But do take issue with exiting CEOs (those who leave voluntarily or involuntarily) from oil companies being "rewarded" with multi-million dollar severance packages. It seems to me that those dollars (though they may be a drop in the bucket considering all things) could certainly be better used rewarding the every day average workers in those oil companies, re-investing the money in alternative or renewable fuel sources, and/or contributing to improvement of services and assistance for economically disadvantaged citizens. After all, those CEOs by virtue of their top positions in the oil companies (and this holds true for any CEOs who get insane severance packages no matter what the company may be) draw huge yearly salaries while they are in those positions -- more than most Americans will ever see in a lifetime. I think something is very wrong with our corporate mentality in this country, our moral and ethical standards, and our haste for the all-might dollar. By the way, I thoroughly enjoy your philosophy, articles, and great humor.
-- Jody Flavin

DIVINE CHRIST IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Re: Edward Del Colle's letter (under "To the Greater Glory") in Reader Mail's Youth Is Served:

In all respect, I could not disagree more with the writer.

On the beginning day of the church 3000 souls were added. Zero to 3000 in one day? Sounds like a slow mover to me.

Even many of the Jewish priests became Christians, as referenced by Wayne Jackson: In his account of the growth of the early church, Luke records that a great company of priests became obedient to "the faith" (Acts 6:7), i.e., they obeyed the requirements of the gospel (2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). Paul once referred to "the faith" that he preached (Gal. 1:23); elsewhere the substance of his preaching is characterized as "the gospel" (1 Cor. 15:1). The Christian is to contend for "the faith" (Jude 3), or be engaged in a defense of "the gospel" (Phil. 1:16).

In logic there is a maxim known as "the law of the excluded middle." It asserts that a thing either is, or it is not. There is no "middle" ground. A line either is a straight line, or it is not a straight line. It cannot be partly straight and partly crooked. In such a case, the "partly crooked" portion would indicate that it is not altogether straight.

Let us apply "the law of the excluded middle" to Christianity. Christianity either is of divine origin, or it is not. If it is not of divine origin, then it is of human origin. If it is of human origin, then it is a false religion, because it claims to be of sacred design. On the other hand, if Christianity is of God -- as it claims -- there ought to be compelling evidence to buttress that affirmation.

When I speak of "Christianity" I am referring to the primitive Christian system as such existed in the first century and which, with diligent attention, may be replicated today (minus its miraculous elements). I am not speaking of the modern, digressive segments of the larger movement known as "Christendom." With that understanding, one must acknowledge that the "influence" of the kingdom of Christ is seen -- scattered around the globe -- even in those movements that retain a remnant of the Lord's teaching.

On the day of its birth the community of believers consisted of a minimum of 3,000 persons (Acts 2:41). If the numeral 3,000 constituted only those immersed that day, and not those disciples previously baptized by John the Baptist (Mt. 3:5-6) and the Lord's disciples (Jn. 4:1-2), the total was significantly larger. Within a relatively short period of time, the number of saints was computed at 5,000 adult men (Acts 4:4), not to mention the thousands of women who likewise were added to the body of believers.

It has been estimated that by the time Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:60), the Jerusalem church consisted of no fewer than 20,000 souls (Kistemaker, p. 148). This represented more than one-third of the estimated 55,000 citizens in Jerusalem at that time (Jeremias, p. 83).

Beyond that, the gospel rapidly spread from Palestine into Africa (Acts 8), Syria (Acts 9), Asia Minor (Acts 13ff), and finally into Europe (Acts 16ff). Paul, whose tireless travels spanned some 12,000 miles, evangelized from Jerusalem to Rome â€" and perhaps as far as Spain (Rom. 15:24,28).

Clement of Rome (c. A.D. 95) says that Paul reached "the boundary of the west" (1 Clement 5), which could be an allusion to Spain. Both Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 1.10.2) and Tertullian (Against Jews, 7) confirm the presence of Christians in Spain in the 2nd century A.D.

Christianity swept over the Roman empire like a tidal wave. The New Testament pays tribute to this phenomenal growth. The Christians were charged with having "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). Their "sound went out into all the earth" (Rom. 10:18); and was "bearing fruit" everywhere (Col. 1:6).

Historian Will Durant (following the lead of Edward Gibbon) argued that by A.D. 300, a quarter of the eastern segment of the empire was Christian, while about one twentieth of the western division was similarly identified (p. 603). Those figures are now considered to be too conservative.

E.M. Blaiklock has noted that studies of the catacombs beneath the city of Rome (about 600 miles of galleries) contain somewhere between 1,750,000 and 4,000,000 "Christian" graves. He estimates that in the middle Empire at least twenty percent of Rome's citizenry was made up of Christians â€" and at times the percentage was greater even. [Note: These tombs reflect an association with the Christian cause, though many of those buried doubtless had digressed from the pristine format.] The catacombs represent ten generations of believers (p. 159). This would suggest that the city of Rome itself had somewhere between 175,000 to 400,000 Christians â€" each generation spanned! This is staggering.

The testimony of Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) is most dramatic: "Men proclaim that the state is beset with us. Every age, condition, and rank is coming over to us. We are only of yesterday, but already we fill the world" (Apology, 37.4).

Moreover, as we shall subsequently observe, this wild-fire growth was achieved under the most adverse circumstances. Again, the question cries out for an answer: What was the cause to which this amazing growth may be attributed? What natural circumstances can account for this?

I apologize for the length, but in many instances truth can not be backed by brevity. True Christianity does turn the world upside down.
-- Kevin W.
Morgantown, West Virginia

NEW RNC CHAIRMAN
Re: Michael Tomlinson's letters in Reader Mail's Youth Is Served:

A double dose of Mr. Michael Tomlinson in Friday's Reader's Mail was a welcome sight. Thanks Mike, (if I may be so informal) I needed it. I say Mr. Tomlinson for RNC Chair. He does live in the neighborhood, close enough anyway.
-- A. DiPentima

NEVER TOO LATE
Re: Ben Stein's Missed Tributes:

I was a little late reading the article by Mr. Stein on the Oscars, but I wanted to extend my thanks. I'm a veteran who served only three months in Iraq, but am proud of those three months. I've got a sister there now and hope and pray that she makes it home safely. I know that everyone who went with her won't be back, but soldiers pay that price when their country asks them to do a job.
-- Lurinda Smith

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