Friday, April 11, 2008


While traffic-light cameras are be touted as safety devices, a new study finds that they might actually cause more harm than they prevent. A recent study by the University of South Florida Public Health shows that traffic accidents at intersections with traffic-light cameras have actually increased.

According to the study, drivers are more likely to slam on their brakes when the traffic signal turns yellow at a camera-equipped intersection, resulting in a higher number of rear-end crashes. Moreover, the study found that the cameras have not decreased the number of deaths due to red-light running accidents. "The injury rate from red-light running crashes has dropped by a third in less than a decade, indicating red-light running crashes have been continually declining in Florida without the use of cameras."

And the findings are not just limited to the roads of Florida. Similar studies have been conducted in Virginia, North Carolina and Ontario and have come up with the same results — traffic-cameras increase the number of crashes but do not reduce the number of fatalities due to drivers running red-lights.

But with traffic-cameras fines contributing more and more to municipals' bottom lines, a sudden removal of the cameras doesn't seem likely.


Six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the amber cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. The local governments in question have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.

The cities in question include Union City, CA, Dallas and Lubbock, TX, Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, Springfield, MO, according to, which collected information from reports from around the country. This isn't the first time traffic cameras have been questioned as to their effectiveness in preventing accidents. In one case, the local government was forced to issue refunds by more than $1 million to motorists who were issued tickets for running red lights.

The report goes on to note these are just instances that have been identified, and there may be more out there, and urges visitors to send in their own findings.

Traffic Cameras for Profit

Posted on April 9, 2008

This is why I am skeptical of any “public safety” argument when it comes to red light cameras.

There is no evidence despite repeated studies that traffic cameras make intersections any safer, yet there is ample evidence to suggest that cities other motives for installing them.

Six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the amber cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. The local governments in question have ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.

[From Six US cities tamper with traffic cameras for profit]

Cities Caught Illegally Tampering With Traffic Lights To Increase Revenue Of Red Light Cameras

from the this-again? dept

Just last month there was the latest in a rather long line of reports noting that red light cameras tend to increase the number of accidents because people slam on their brakes to stop in time, leading to rear-ending accidents. Time and time again studies have shown that if cities really wanted to make traffic crossings safer there's a very simple way to do so: increase the length of the yellow light and make sure there's a pause before the cross traffic light turns green (this is done in some places, but not in many others).

Tragically, it looks like some cities are doing the opposite! Jeff Nolan points out that six US cities have been caught decreasing the length of the yellow light below the legal limits in an effort to catch more drivers running red lights and increasing revenue. This is especially disgusting. These cities are actively putting more people in danger of serious injury or death solely for the sake of raising revenue -- while claiming all along that it's for safety purposes. Is it any surprise that one of the six cities is Dallas? Remember, just last month Dallas decided it wasn't going to install any more red light cameras because fewer tickets had hurt city revenue.

Dallas, Texas Cameras Bank on Short Yellow Times
The top money-producing red light cameras in Dallas, Texas use short yellow warning times.
A local news investigation has found that the city of Dallas, Texas depends upon short yellow timing to maximize red light camera profit. Of the ten cameras that issue the greatest number of tickets in the city, seven are located at intersections where the yellow duration is shorter than the bare minimum recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), KDFW-TV found.

The city's second highest revenue producing camera, for example, is located at the intersection of Greenville Avenue and Mockingbird Lane. It issued 9407 tickets worth $705,525 between January 1 and August 31, 2007. At the intersections on Greenville Avenue leadding up to the camera intersection, however, yellows are at least 3.5 or 4.0 seconds in duration, but the ticket producing intersection's yellow stands at just 3.15 seconds. The yellow is .35 seconds shorter than TxDOT's recommended bare minimum.

"For 30 miles per hour, if your yellow time was less than three and a half, you would not be giving that driver enough time to react and brake and stop prior to getting to the intersection," TxDOT Dallas District office transportation engineer supervisor Chris Blain told KDFW.

A small change in signal timing can have a great effect on the number of tickets issued. About four out of every five red light camera citations are issued before even a second has elapsed after the light changed to red, according to a report by the California State Auditor. This suggests that most citations are issued to those surprised by a quick-changing signal light. Confidential documents obtained in a 2001 court trial proved that the city of San Diego, California and its red light camera vendor, now ACS, only installed red light cameras at intersections with high volumes and "Amber (yellow) phase less than 4 seconds."

Dallas likewise installed the cameras at locations with existing short yellow times. A total of twenty-one camera intersections in Dallas have yellow times below TxDOT's bare minimum recommended amount. The Texas Transportation Institute study also found that shorter yellows generate a 110 percent jump in the number of tickets, but at the cost of safety. Increasing the yellow one second above the recommended minimum cut crashes by 40 percent.

Since the Dallas intersection ticketing program launched last December, it has issued $13.5 million worth of automated citations from sixty camera locations. Beginning in September, however, Texas cities must split camera ticket profit with the state. To make up for lost revenue, Dallas plans to install forty more cameras. View KDFW's signal timing chart, a 44k PDF file.

Source: Investigation: Red Light Camera Red Alert (KDFW-TV (TX), 11/13/2007)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ways to make guests feel unwelcome

Ways to make guests feel unwelcome
David Francis
Posted on Apr 9, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--April Fool's Day is behind us, but it is still close enough for some people -- like me -- to slip in some tongue-in-cheek jesting. So in honor of April Fool's Day, this list is for all those churches who really would rather people just leave them alone.

Got too many people visiting your church? Need to do some things to discourage them from coming back a second time? Here are a list of ways to make guests feel unwelcome should they show up at your church or class. You don't even need to do all of them. But be careful -- if you do the opposite of even six or seven of the items on this list, you might discover that guests are returning for a second visit. Do the opposite of eight or nine of them, and you could discover that they come back a third or fourth time. Some will even enroll in your Sunday School or join the church. To keep people away, try a few of these ideas:

-- Make parking for first-time guests inconvenient. This is probably your best first line of defense against visitors, particularly first-time guests. Welcoming churches have parking spaces close to the main entrance of the building marked clearly "For First-Time Guests." Some even have a special team of volunteers whose job is to warmly greet first-time guests and give them immediate directions, perhaps even providing a map and marking the parking area on it. Some churches have a sign at the entrance that reads "First Time Guests: Please Flash Your Lights," with volunteers in the parking lot to direct them to the special parking area.

-- Get grouchy greeters. A friendly smile and a warm handshake at the door goes a long way to make guests feel welcome. You could just get rid of greeters altogether of course, but if you're trying to make guests feel unwelcome, it is actually more effective to have grouchy greeters. Train them to carry on conversations with other greeters, and sort of just grunt at people they don't recognize. And make sure they don't direct guests to a welcome center.

-- Forego a welcome center. Even a clearly marked table or desk exclusively for guest information can make a really big positive impression. Especially if there is clear information about classes.

-- Treat guests like a doctor's office treats new patients. Here's a tricky one. Go ahead and staff a welcome desk, but make sure the experience is as close to that of a new patient as possible. Ignore the guest for a few minutes. Act like the guest has been there before and knows what to do. Post a lot of signs. And best of all, hand them a clipboard and demand they fill out some forms. On the other hand, good churches do get the guest's information; they're just nice about it.

-- Don't escort guests to their classrooms. Really welcoming churches don't send people to their classrooms. They escort them. Starting with the youngest child (if there are children), a family is dropped off one-by-one at their classes, with the last stop being the adult class. So, just cut out this whole step if you want guests to feel unwelcome.

-- Make finding a seat really hard. All members can participate in this one. Just "save" all the seats at the back of the room or on the aisles. This works in the worship center and in the student or adult classroom. If you want to do more, make sure the chairs face the door, so everyone can stare at a newcomer as soon as they reach they door. If you can make a guest come to the front of the room, or crawl over several people to find a seat, you'll almost guarantee they'll feel unwelcome.

-- Have guests stand up while everyone else sits, or sit while everyone else stands. I am not sure which of these works better to run people off. I almost think the practice of having guests remain seated while everyone around them stands is better if you want to make guests feel unwelcome. It is sort of like being a little baby in a crib surrounded by doting relatives. In a Sunday School class, it feels much better to a guest if they are acknowledged, and someone else introduces them.

-- Randomly call on people to read or pray. You don't even need to pick on guests. Just call on random members to pray or read Scripture. That will serve to create anxiety in your guests that they may be next. Wise teachers always ask members ahead of time if they will read from the Bible, perhaps handing them the "address" of the verses on an index card so the member can mark his Bible and familiarize himself with the passage. Likewise, they ask a member before class if she would be willing to lead in prayer. Then during class, they make it clear by saying, "I have asked Kim to lead us in prayer after we've taken requests for about 5 minutes." Or, "Who did I ask to read verses 35-38?"

-- Don't wear name tags. There is nothing that makes a guest feel more welcome than a room full of people wearing name tags. Absolutely nothing. Wearing a name tag is an act of faith. It says, "I'm expecting God to send someone to our class today who doesn't yet know us." The stick-on kind works fine. I remember how welcome I felt the first time I visited Hope Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Mass. As soon as I walked into the tiny foyer, some young people –- probably students at nearby Harvard or MIT –- invited me to stick on a name tag. They were all wearing them, too. Everyone was calling me by name, and I them. At a new church meeting in a middle school in Wake Forest, N.C., everyone wore name tags, and many stopped dead in their tracks to greet me. I discovered the next day that I had been handed a name tag with a subtle red border. Members knew to wear a name tag with a green border. Regular attenders wore yellow. It was like a conspiracy -– a whole church full of greeters anticipating newcomers each week. So, if you want to make guests feel unwelcome, by all means do not wear name tags!
David Francis serves as director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare - Speech by Newt Gingrich

Published: November 29, 2007

Sleepwalking Into a Nightmare

Speech by Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered the following remarks to a Jewish National Fund meeting Nov. 15 at the Selig Center.

I just want to talk to you from the heart for a few minutes and share with you where I think we are.

I think it is very stark. I don't think it is yet desperate, but it is very stark. And if I had a title for today's talk, it would be sleepwalking into a nightmare. 'Cause that's what I think we're doing.

I gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute Sept. 10th at which I gave an alternative history of the last six years, because the more I thought about how much we're failing, the more I concluded you couldn't just nitpick individual places and talk about individual changes because it didn't capture the scale of the disaster. And I had been particularly impressed by a new book that came out called “Troublesome Young Men,” which is a study of the younger Conservatives who opposed appeasement in the 1930s and who took on Chamberlain. It's a very revealing book and a very powerful book because we tend to look backwards and we tend to overstate Churchill's role in that period. And we tend to understate what a serious and conscientious and thoughtful effort appeasement was and that it was the direct and deliberate policy of very powerful and very willful people. We tend to think of it as a psychological weakness, as though Chamberlain was somehow craven. He wasn't craven. Chamberlain had a very clear vision of the world, and he was very ruthless domestically. And they believed so deeply in avoiding war with Germany that as late as the spring of 1940, when they are six months or seven months into they war, they are dropping leaflets instead of bombs on the Rohr, and they are urging the British news media not to publish anti-German stories because they don't want to offend the German people. And you read this book, and it makes you want to weep because, interestingly, the younger Tories who were most opposed to appeasement were the combat veterans of World War I, who had lost all of their friends in the war but who understood that the failure of appeasement would result in a worse war and that the longer you lied about reality, the greater the disaster.

And they were severely punished and isolated by Chamberlain and the Conservative machine, and as I read that, I realized that that's really where we are today. Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem.

Let me work back. I'm going to get to Iran since that's the topic, but I'm going to get to it eventually.

Let me work back from Pakistan. The dictatorship in Pakistan has never had control over Wiziristan. Not for a day. So we've now spent six years since 9/11 with a sanctuary for al Qaeda and a sanctuary for the Taliban, and every time we pick up people in Great Britain who are terrorists, they were trained in Pakistan.

And our answer is to praise Musharraf because at least he's not as bad as the others. But the truth is Musharraf has not gotten control of terrorism in Pakistan. Musharraf doesn't have full control over his own government. The odds are even money we're going to drift into a disastrous dictatorship at some point in Pakistan. And while we worry about the Iranians acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Pakistanis already have 'em, So why would you feel secure in a world where you could presently have an Islamist dictatorship in Pakistan with a hundred-plus nuclear weapons? What's our grand strategy for that?

Then you look at Afghanistan. Here's a country that's small, poor, isolated, and in six years we have not been able to build roads, create economic opportunity, wean people off of growing drugs. A third of the GDP is from drugs. We haven't been able to end the sanctuary for the Taliban in Pakistan. And I know of no case historically where you defeat a guerrilla movement if it has a sanctuary. So the people who rely on the West are out-bribed by the criminals, outgunned by the criminals, and faced with a militant force across the border which practiced earlier defeating the Soviet empire and which has a time horizon of three or four generations. NATO has a time horizon of each quarter or at best a year, facing an opponent whose time horizon is literally three or four generations. It's a total mismatch.

Then you come to the direct threat to the United States, which is al Qaeda. Which, by the way, we just published polls. One of the sites I commend to you is Last Wednesday we posted six national surveys, $428,000 worth of data. We gave it away. I found myself in the unique position of calling Howard Dean to tell him I was giving him $400,000 worth of polling. We have given it away to both Democrats and Republicans. It is fundamentally different from the national news media. When asked the question "Do we have an obligation to defend the United States and her allies?" the answer is 85 percent yes. When asked a further question "Should we defeat our enemies?" – it's very strong language – the answer is 75% yes, 75 to 16.

The complaint about Iraq is a performance complaint, not a values complaint.

When asked whether or not al Qaeda is a threat, 89% of the country says yes. And they think you have to defeat it, you can't negotiate with it. So now let's look at al Qaeda and the rise of Islamist terrorism.

And let's be honest: What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.

Now that's what a serious national strategy would look like, but that would require real change.

So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.

It's not complicated. We're inviting Saudi Arabia to come to Annapolis to talk about rights for Palestinians when nobody is saying, "Let's talk about rights for Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabia. Let's talk about rights for women in Saudi Arabia."

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.

You keep pumping billions of dollars a year into countries like Venezuela, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Russia, and you are presently going to have created people who oppose you who have lots of money. And they're then going to come back to your own country and finance, for example, Arab study institutes whose only requirement is that they never tell the truth. So you have all sorts of Ph.D.s who now show up quite cheerfully prepared to say whatever it is that makes their funders happy – in the name, of course, of academic freedom. So why wouldn't Columbia host a genocidal madman? It's just part of political correctness. I mean, Ahmadinejad may say terrible things, he may lock up students, he may kill journalists, he may say, "We should wipe out Israel," he may say, "We should defeat the United States," but after all, what has he done that's inappropriate? What has he done that wouldn't be repeated at a Hollywood cocktail party or a nice gathering in Europe?

And nobody says this is totally, utterly, absolutely unacceptable. Why is it that the number one threat in intelligence movies is the CIA?

I happened the other night to be watching an old movie, “To Live and Die in L.A.,” which is about counterfeiting. But the movie starts with a Secret Service agent who is defending Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the person he is defending Ronald Reagan from is a suicide bomber who is actually, overtly a Muslim fanatic. Now, six years after 9/11, you could not get that scene made in Hollywood today.

Just look at the movies. Why is it that the bad person is either a Right-wing crazed billionaire, or the CIA as a government agency? Go look at “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Or a movie like the one that George Clooney made, which was an absolute lie, in which it implied that if you were a reformist Arab prince, that probably the CIA would kill you. It's a total lie. We actually have SEALs protecting people all over the world. We actually risk American lives protecting reformers all over the world, and yet Hollywood can't bring itself to tell the truth, (a) because it's ideologically so opposed to the American government and the American military, and (b), because it's terrified that if it said something really openly, honestly true about Muslim terrorists, they might show up in Hollywood. And you might have somebody killed as the Dutch producer was killed.

And so we're living a life of cowardice, and in that life of cowardice we're sleepwalking into a nightmare.

And then you come to Iran. There's a terrific book. Mark Bowden is a remarkable writer who wrote “Black Hawk Down,” has enormous personal courage. He's a Philadelphia newspaper writer, actually got the money out of the Philadelphia newspaper to go to Somalia to interview the Somalian side of “Black Hawk Down.” It's a remarkable achievement. Tells a great story about getting to Somalia, paying lots of cash, having the local warlord protect him, and after about two weeks the warlord came to him and said, "You know, we've decided that we're very uncomfortable with you being here, and you should leave."

And so he goes to the hotel, where he is the only hard-currency guest, and says, "I've got to check out two weeks early because the warlord has told me that he no longer will protect me." And the hotel owner, who wants to keep his only hard-currency guest, says, "Well, why are you listening to him? He's not the government. There is no government." And Bowden says, "Well, what will I do?" And he says, "You hire a bigger warlord with more guns," which he did. But then he could only stay one week because he ran out of money.

But this is a guy with real courage. I mean, imagine trying to go out and be a journalist in that kind of world, OK? So Bowden came back and wrote “Guests of the Ayatollah,” which is the Iranian hostage of 1979, which he entitled, "The First Shots in Iran's War Against America." So in the Bowden worldview, the current Iranian dictatorship has been at war with the United States since 1979. Violated international law. Every conceivable tenet of international law was violated when they seized the American Embassy and they seized the diplomats. Killed Americans in Lebanon in the early '80s. Killed Americans at Khobar Towers in '95 and had the Clinton administration deliberately avoid revealing the information, as Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI, has said publicly, because they didn't want to have to confront the Iranian complicity.

And so you have an Iranian regime which is cited annually as the leading supporter of state terrorism in the world. Every year the State Department says that. It's an extraordinary act of lucidity on the part of an institution which seeks to avoid it as often as possible.

And you have Gen. Petraeus come to the U.S. Congress and say publicly in an open session, "The Iranians are waging a proxy war against Americans in Iraq."

I was so deeply offended by this, it's hard for me to express it without sounding irrational. I'm an Army brat. My dad served 27 years in the infantry. The idea that an American general would come to the American Congress, testify in public that our young men and women are being killed by Iran, and we have done nothing, I find absolutely abhorrent.

So I'm preparing to come and talk today. I got up this morning, and a friend had sent me yesterday's Jerusalem Post editorial, which if you haven't read, I recommend to you. It has, for example, the following quote: "On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, 'The problem of the content of the document setting out joint principles for peace-making post-Annapolis has not been resolved. One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state. We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined.' "

What truly bothers me is the shallowness and the sophistry of the Western governments, starting with our own. When a person says to you, "I don't recognize that you exist," you don't start a negotiation. The person says, "I literally do not recognize" and then lies to you. I mean the first thing you say to this guy is "Terrific. Let's go visit Mecca. Since clearly there's no other state except Israel that is based on religion, the fact that I happen to be Christian won't bother anybody." And then he'll say, "Well, that's different."

We tolerate this. We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful."

I just want to share with you, as a grandfather, as a citizen, as a historian, as somebody who was once speaker of the House, this is a serious national crisis. This is 1935 or 1936, and it's getting worse every year.

None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.

I was once interviewed by a BBC reporter, a nice young lady who was only about as anti-American as she had to be to keep her job. Since it was a live interview, I turned to her halfway through the interview and I said, "Do you like your job?" And it was summertime, and she's wearing a short-sleeve dress. And she said, "Well, yes." She was confused because I had just reversed roles. I said, "Well, then you should hope we win." She said, "What do you mean?" And I said, "Well, if the enemy wins, you won't be allowed to be on television."

I don't know how to explain it any simpler than that.

Now what do we need?

We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.

Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to break the Soviet empire. He was asked, “What's your vision of the Cold War?” He said, "Four words: We win; they lose." He was clearly seen by The New York Times as an out-of-touch, reactionary, right-wing cowboy from California who had no idea what was going on in the world. And 11 years later the Soviet Union disappeared, but obviously that had nothing to do with Reagan because that would have meant he was right. So it's just a random accident the Soviet Union disappeared.

Part of the war we waged on the Soviet Union involved their natural gas supply because we wanted to cut off their hard currency. The Soviets were desperate to get better equipment for their pipeline. We managed to sell them through third parties very, very sophisticated American pipeline equipment, which they were thrilled to buy and thought they had pulled off a huge coup. Now we weren't playing fair. We did not tell them that the equipment was designed to blow up. One day in 1982, there was an explosion in Siberia so large that the initial reflection on the satellites looked like there was a tactical nuclear weapon. One part of the White House was genuinely worried, and the other part of the White House had to calm them down. They said, "No, no, that's our equipment blowing up."

In the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."

We don't have to be stupid. The choice is not cowardice or total war. Reagan unlocked Poland without firing a shot in an alliance with the pope, with the labor unions and with the British. We have every possibility if we're prepared to be honest to shape the world. It'll be a very big project. It's much closer to World War II than it is to anything we've tried recently. It will require real effort, real intensity and real determination. We're either going to do it now, while we're still extraordinarily powerful, or we're going to do it later under much more desperate circumstances after we've lost several cities.

We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.

I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.

# #

Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of "Winning the Future".

The Once & Future Christendom - From death of the West to knights of the West

September 10, 2007 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative

The Once & Future Christendom

From death of the West—to knights of the West

by James P. Pinkerton

The Call of Duty—and Destiny

In one of the great epics of Western literature, the hero, confronted by numerous and powerful enemies, temporarily gives in to weakness and self-pity. “I wish,” he sighs, “none of this had happened.” The hero’s wise adviser responds, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” The old man continues, “There are other forces at work in this world … besides the will of evil.” Some events, he adds, are “meant” to be, “And that is an encouraging thought.”

Indeed it is. Perhaps, today, we are meant to live in these times. Perhaps right here, right now, we are meant to be tested. Maybe we are meant to have faith that other forces are at work in this world, that we are meant to rediscover our strength and our survival skills.

And so the question: can we, the people of the West, be brought to failure despite our enormous cultural and spiritual legacy? Three thousand years of history look down upon us: does this generation wish to be remembered for not having had the strength to look danger squarely in the eye? For having failed to harness our latent strength in our own defense?

With apologies to the frankenfood-fearers and polar bear-sentimentalizers, the biggest danger we face is the Clash of Civilizations, especially as we rub against the “bloody borders” of Islam.

What if, in the coming century, we lose that clash—and the source of our civilization? What if Muslims take over Europe? What if “Eurabia” indeed comes to pass? Would Islamic invaders demolish the Vatican, as the Taliban dynamited Afghanistan’s Buddhas of Bamyan in 2001? Or would they settle merely for stripping the great cathedrals of Europe of all their Christian adornment, rendering them into mosques? And what if the surviving non-Muslim population of Europe is reduced to subservient “dhimmitude”?

It could happen. Many think it will. In July 2004, Princeton historian Bernard Lewis told Germany’s Die Welt that Europe would be Islamic by the end of this century, “at the very latest.” Other observers, too, have spoken out: Melanie Phillips in Londonistan, Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, and Mark Steyn in America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. Admittedly, these writers share a mostly neoconservative perspective, but such can’t be said for Patrick Buchanan, author of the book that out-Spenglers Spengler, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization.

On the other side of the great divide, militant Muslims are feeling the wind at their backs. Last November, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, released an audiotape in which he vowed, “We will not rest from our jihad until we are under the olive trees of the Roman Empire”—which is to say, much of Europe. This August, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, traveling to Afghanistan, declared, “There is no way for salvation of mankind but rule of Islam over mankind.” To be sure, there’s no shortage of Christians who speak this way, but none of them are currently heads of state.

If demography is the author of destiny, then the danger of Europe falling within dar al-Islam is real. And in addition to the teeming Muslim lumpen already within the gates, plenty more are coming. According to United Nations data, the population of the Arab world will increase from 321 million in 2004 to 598 million in 2050. Are those swarming masses really going to hang back in Egypt and Yemen when Europe beckons? And of course, over the horizon, just past Araby, abide the Muslim multitudes of Central Asia and Africa, where tens of millions more would love to make the secular hajj to, say, Rome or Berlin.

In other words, if present trends continue, the green flag of Islam—bearing the shahada, the declaration of faith, “There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God”—could be fluttering above Athens and Rotterdam in the lifespan of a youngster today. If so, then the glory of Europe as the hub of Greco-Roman and Christian civilization would be extinguished forever.

If this Muslimization befalls Europe, the consequences would be catastrophic for Americans as well. Although some neoconservatives, bitter at Old European “surrender monkeys,” might be quietly pleased at the prospect, the fact is that a Salafist Surge into the heart of Europe—destroying the civilization that bequeathed to us Aesop and Aristotle, Voltaire and the Victorians—would be a psychic wound that would never heal, not across the great sward of America, not even in the carpeted think-warrens of the American Enterprise Institute. A dolorous bell would toll for all of us, scattered as we might be in the European Diaspora.

So for better ideas, we might turn to J.R.R. Tolkien. The medievalist-turned-novelist, best-known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has been admired by readers and moviegoers alike for his fantastic flights. Yet we might make special note of his underlying political, even strategic, perspective. Amid all his swords and sorcery, we perhaps have neglected Tolkien’s ultimate point: some things are worth fighting for—and other things are not worth fighting for; indeed, it is a tragic mistake even to try.

In his subtle way, Tolkien argues for a vision of individual and collective self-preservation that embraces a realistic view of human nature, including its limitations, even as it accepts difference and diversity. Moreover, Tolkien counsels robust self-defense in one’s own area—the homeland, which he calls the Shire—even as he advocates an overall modesty of heroic ambition. All in all, that’s not a bad approach for true conservatives, who appreciate the value of lumpy hodgepodge as opposed to artificially imposed universalisms.

So with Tolkien in mind, we might speak of the “Shire Strategy.” It’s simple: the Shire is ours, we want to keep it, and so we must defend it. Yet by the same principle, since others have their homelands and their rights, we should leave them alone, as long as they leave us alone. Live and let live. That’s not world-historical, merely practical. For us, after our recent spasm of universalism—the dogmatically narcissistic view that everyone, everywhere wants to be like us—it’s time for a healthy respite, moving toward an each-to-his-own particularism.

Tolkien comes to the particular through the peculiar, creating his Bosch-like wonderland of exotic beings: Elves, Orcs, Trolls, Wargs, Werewolves, Ents, Eastlings, Southrons. To audiences relentlessly tutored in the PC pieties of skin-deep multiculturalism, Tolkien offers a different sort of diversity—of genuine difference, with no pretense of similarity, let alone universal equality. In his world, it is perfectly natural that all creatures great and small—the Hobbits are indeed small, around three feet high—have their own place in the great chain of being.

So the Hobbits, low down on that chain, mind their own business. One of their aphorisms is the need to avoid “trouble too big for you.” Indeed, even Hobbits are subdivided into different breeds, each with its own traits. Frodo, for instance, is a Fallohide, not to be confused with a Harfoot or a Stoor. Tolkien wasn’t describing a clash of civilizations—he was setting forth an abundance of civilizations, each blooming and buzzing and doing its own thing.

In addition to the innate differences, Tolkien added a layer of tragic complexity: the enticement of power. Some races in Middle Earth were given Rings of Power—19 in all, symbolizing technological might but also a metaphor for hubristic overreach: “Three Rings for Elven-kings under the sky / Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone / Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die.” One notes immediately that the Hobbits, along with other categories of being, have received no rings. Again, Tolkien’s world doesn’t pretend to be fair; we get what we are given, by the design (or maybe for the amusement) of greater powers. Only one threat endangers this yeasty diversity—the flowing tide of overweening universalism, emblemized by Sauron, who seeks to conquer the whole wide world, and everyone and everything in it

Of all the men and mice in Tolkien’s bestiary, the Hobbits are his favorite. Jolly good peasants that they are, Hobbits never hunger for martial fabulation or Riefenstahlian dramatization; their nature is to accomplish their mission first and brag about it only afterward. And the Hobbits’ biggest mission, of course, is the destruction of the One Ring. In Tolkien’s tale, there aren’t 19 Rings, as thought, but actually 20, and that 20th Ring, the One Ring, or Ruling Ring, is most to be feared. Loaded as it is with Wagnerian overtones, the One Ring is Tolkien’s symbol of evil, or, more precisely, it symbolizes temptation, which leads to evil. Even the dreaded Sauron is but a slave to his ambition to acquire the One Ring—and if Sauron can get it, then all hope for freedom and difference will be lost under his world-flattening tyranny.

Happily, unique among sentient beings, the Hobbits seem relatively immune to Ringed seduction. Hobbits like to smoke and drink, but all grander forms of world-girdling intoxication are lost on these simple folk. Hobbits just want their Shire to return to normalcy.

Enter Frodo, hero Hobbit. Tolkien, who served as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers during the Great War, modeled Frodo, admiringly, after the Tommies—the grunt infantrymen—who fought alongside him. Neither a defeatist nor a militarist, Tolkien admired those men who were simultaneously stoic and heroic. In the words of medieval historian Norman Cantor, “Frodo is not physically powerful, and his judgment is sometimes erratic. He wants not to bring about the golden era but to get rid of the Ring, to place it beyond the powers of evil; not to transform the world but to bring peace and quiet to the Shire.” Because of their innate modestly, only Hobbits have the hope of resisting the sorcery of the Ring. Frodo volunteers to carry the Ring to the lip of a volcano, Mt. Doom, there to cast it down and destroy it once and for all.

And even for Frodo, the task is not easy; he’s that lonely epic hero who wishes that none of this had happened. But as the wise Gandalf tells him, it was meant to happen And so it goes: events unfold to a successful but still bittersweet conclusion.

Indeed, the greatest desire for power, Ring-lust, is felt by men, not the lesser beings. And so when our heroes are confronted by two dangers—the danger from Sauron’s encroaching army, hunting for the Ring, and the infinitely direr prospect that Sauron might gain the Ring—it is a mostly virtuous man, Boromir, who is most sorely tempted. Don’t destroy the Ring, Boromir insists; use the Ring to repel Sauron: “Take it and go forth to victory!” In other words, use the Ring to guarantee triumph. But that’s Tolkien’s point: absolute power is always tempting—and always corrupting.

The good are good only as long as they resist temptation. A wise Elf, Elrond, answers Boromir: “We cannot use the Ruling Ring … the very desire of it corrupts the heart.” That is, a good man who uses the Ring automatically becomes a bad man, who would “set himself on Sauron’s throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear.” And so the varied group convened by Elrond—Elves, Dwarves, Men, and Hobbits—agrees to an arduous plan. The Council of Elrond will fight Sauron’s army through “conventional” means, while a smaller team, the Fellowship of the Ring, chiefly Frodo, crosses into enemy territory in hopes of destroying the sinister golden band. But as Tolkien makes clear, the Ring threatens to overwhelm everyone, and everything, with temptation.

Tolkien died in 1973. During his lifetime, and ever since, critics and pundits have put their own spin on his work. He was writing, it was said, about the totalitarian temptation. About the lure of fascism. Or maybe about the Circean song of communism. Or perhaps it was all a jeremiad aimed at industrialization. Each of these was, of course, a universalism, and so each was, in its way, antithetical to the natural variegation that Tolkien so treasured.

The author himself abjured simplistic allegorical explanation, perhaps in part to keep his multiple audiences happy. In the ’60s, for instance, the Hobbits were celebrated as proto-hippies, inspiring jokes about what might be tamped into their smoking pipes; the whole oeuvre was seen as a druggy trip. But Tolkien once confided, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.” That is, Catholic in the sense that reality and history are complicated, that the world is rich in majesty and mystery, that human nature is but a poor vessel. In his world, the Shire is Christendom, and Christendom is the Shire.

Yet more than three decades after Tolkien’s death, new universalisms—new all-encompassing ideologies—have gained prominence, vexing, once again, tradition and difference throughout the world. One such universalism is capitalist globalism. In the late ’80s, Francis Fukuyama published his legendarily misguided piece “The End of History?” suggesting that the West had found The Answer. Madeleine Albright expressed similar hubris when she declared that America was “the indispensable nation.” And Thomas Friedman has since argued that everyone has to submit to “golden handcuffs,” managed by planetary financiers, even as the wondrous force of capitalism “flattens” the world. But of course, it took Paul Wolfowitz to bring Rousseau to life in another century: Uncle Sam would force people to be free. And how are these bright bold visions working out, in the wake of 9/11, in a world that includes IEDs, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al-Jazeera?

Defending—and Redefining—the Shire

Underneath his neo-medievalism, Tolkien preached realism. He wrote, “It will not do to leave a live dragon out of your plans if you live near one.” That is, the dragon, red in tooth and crescent, is lurking. It cannot be ignored.

Nor can we ignore the painful reality of a genuine fifth column in the West. This summer, Gordon Brown’s government concluded that 1 in 11 British Muslims—almost 150,000 people living in the United Kingdom—“proactively” supports terrorism, with still more rated as passive supporters. And this spring, a Pew Center survey found that 13 percent of American Muslims, as well as 26 percent aged 18-29, were bold enough to tell a pollster that suicide bombing was “sometimes” justified. These Muslim infiltrators, of course, have potential access to weapons of mass destruction.

So what to do? Call the ACLU? The United Nations?

That won’t work. Just as the Roman Empire’s dream of universal dominion once collapsed, leaving the peoples of Europe to create new institutions for their own survival, so, today, any thought that the United Nations could save us from ruin has evaporated. The Blue Helmets have fallen, and they can’t get up.

At the same time, at a level just below the UN, the vision of an ever-expanding European Union, to include all the states touching the Mediterranean, has happily collapsed. Now it seems certain that even Turkey will never be admitted. Increasingly, people see that in a world of transnational terrorism, the key issue is not figuring out a common agricultural policy that unites Denmark and Cyprus, but rather a common survival policy for Europa, from the Pillars of Hercules to the Ural Mountains.

So we must look to older models for hope and survival—models more faithful, more fighting, more fertile. A case in point is France. To be sure, on the Mars-Venus continuum, most Americans regard the French as hopelessly Venus, but they were Mars in the past. Perhaps their most virtuous Martian was Charles Martel, King of the Franks, who defeated the Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours in AD 732. In the words of the contemporaneous chronicler, Isidore of Beja, “In the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords, they hewed down the Arabs.” The defeat of the Muslims was one of the “Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World,” according to 19th-century historian Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy, because it saved the West from destruction.

The French have remembered “Charles the Hammer” ever since, even naming warships after him. Indeed, across 2,000 years, from Vercingetorix to Charlemagne (Martel’s grandson) to Napoleon, the French have showed plenty of fight, and usually much skill. That’s why there’s still a France. And now, despite their recent failures and cupidities, the French are showing renewed determination, as in the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, a man who based his campaign on restoring border security, as well as law and order, to his beleaguered nation.

Meanwhile, as European birthrates plummet, the continent faces the prospect of demographic desiccation. Yet surely a civilization-saving alternative to imported Muslimization must be found. One option, bringing in Eastern Europeans to Western Europe, is probably less than desirable because those Eastern Europeans are needed where they are, to defend Russia and Ukraine against the New Tatars further east. A better solution would be to bring the poorer children of Europe—from countries such as Argentina—home to Europe, allowing the New World to help rescue the Old World.

But we need bigger and broader ideas as well, to replace the doddering vision of international law as the antidote to terrorism.

The Revival of Christendom

Two years ago, the Eurocrats in Brussels drafted a 300-page EU constitution that consciously omitted reference to Europe’s specifically Christian heritage. The voters of France, as well as Holland, rejected that secular document.

Maybe there’s a lesson here. The people of Europe might not be so eager, after all, to declare that they are “united in diversity.” What does that phrase mean, anyway? How about trying to find something that unites Europeans in unity? How about a revival of Christendom as a concept—as a political concept? A revival, or at least a remembrance, of Europe’s cultural heritage could be the healing force that Europe needs.

After all, it worked in the past. In the words of the 19th-century French historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, the victory of Christianity marked “the end of ancient society”—and all the petty divisions that went with it. Fustel de Coulanges continues, “Man felt that he had other obligations besides that of living and dying for the city. Christianity distinguished the private from the public virtues. By giving less honor to the latter, it elevated the former; it placed God, the family, the human individual above country, the neighbor above the city.”

As history proves, a larger communion can be built on such sentiments. In the 9th century, Alcuin of York declared that the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor would bring forth a new Imperium Christianum. Ten centuries later, Hilaire Belloc asserted, “The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith.” Indeed, during those many centuries, Europe enjoyed a pretty good run. Only in the last century—the century of atheists, psychiatrists, and National Socialists—has Europe’s survivability come into question. Today, the Christian author Os Guiness puts the issue plainly: “A Europe cut off from its spiritual roots cannot survive.”

Some will smile at the thought that Christianity might be part of the solution to the problems of the Third Millennium. Admittedly, there’s an element of faith in the idea of trying to revive the idea of Christian unity. But Christendom is the Shire Strategy, applied.

To keep the peace, we must separate our civilizations. We must start with a political principle, that the West shall stay the West, while the East can do as it wishes on its side of the frontier, and only on its side. The classical political maxim cuius regio, eius religio (“whose region, his religion”) makes sense. To be sure, it has been unfashionable to talk this way in the West, but Muslims are avidly applying it as they set about martyring the remaining Christian populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. So we of the West can build walls, as needed, and as physically imposing as need be. Going further, we can finally recognize the need for an energy-independence embargo, so that we no longer finance those who wish to conquer or kill us.

For obvious reasons, strategic as well as moral, the Western political alliance must be bigger than just a few relatively friendly countries along the other side of the Atlantic. It should include, most pressingly, Russia. Vladimir Putin might think of himself as a rival, even a foe, of the United States, but he knows he faces a mortal enemy in Islam; it’s the Chechens who are killing his soldiers. So as Russia enjoys its own Christian revival, a reconciliation with mostly Christian America is possible. Immediately, America should renew the spirit of Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative speech, in which the Gipper called for including Moscow inside the protective shield. So instead of building missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, dividing Europe from Russia, the United States should put those sites in Russia’s southern reaches, to face the real enemy, which is Iran and the rest of nuclear Islam. Even Putin has suggested this defensive placement, perhaps because down deep, he, too, understands that the Christian West should be unified, not divided.

But what of Christians elsewhere in the world? What, for example, of Latin America—which includes the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez? And even more urgently, what of Africa, where Christians are suffering from many afflictions, including the inexorable Muslim advance, pushing south past the 10th parallel into the Christian populations of countries including Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia? How to withstand these many challenges?

The answer: through political co-operation. In Tolkien’s world, it was the Council of Elrond. Perhaps in our world, it could be Council of the West.

It’s been done before. In AD 325, Constantine the Great convened the Council of Nicaea, drawing together quarrelsome bishops from across Europe to hammer out the basic doctrines of the church. Constantine was the first Christian Roman Emperor, although he concerned himself more with geopolitics than theological minutiae. “It is my desire,” he told this first ecumenical convocation, “that you should meet together in a general council … and to know you are resolved to be in common harmony together.” The council was a success, producing the Nicene Creed, which united European faith for centuries to come.

But today, how to find a new unity that reaches across oceans and continents, to include the likes of Putin and Chavez? Answer: with great difficulty, not all at once, and with no certainty of success.

And what of other hard cases? What of Africa? The Christian countries of Africa are part of the Shire Strategy and need to be embraced with tough love. The immediate mission is to delineate a Christian Zone and a Muslim Zone, dividing countries if need be. All Christians, and all Muslims, have a stake in minimizing conflict; the obvious way is by separating the combatants. So a wall should go up between the warring faiths, and then a bigger wall, until the flashpoint risk of civilization clash goes away. Then, and only then, might we hope to find workable solutions within the Christian Zone.

Some will insist that this neo-Constantinian vision of muscular political Christendom is implausible—or inimical to world peace. But in fact, whether we like it or not, the world is forming into blocs. Samuel Huntington was right about “the clash of civilizations”—but with political skill, we can keep clashes from becoming larger wars.

No matter what we say or do, the blocs of Hindus, Chinese, and Japanese are all going their separate cultural ways, rediscovering their own unique heritages. And Islam, of course, is at odds with all of its neighbors. In his book a decade ago, Huntington, mindful of the indirect danger posed by American universalism, was even more mindful of the direct danger posed by Muslims: “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards,” he writes. “Muslim bellicosity and violence are late-twentieth century facts which neither Muslims nor non-Muslims can deny.” That’s bad news, but there’s a silver lining: if Westerners, Russians, Africans, Hindus, and Chinese all feel threatened by Islam—and they all do—there’s plenty of opportunity for a larger encircling alliance, with an eye toward feasible strategies of containment, even quarantine. But not conquest, not occupation, not “liberation.” So the big question is whether or not Christians will continue to be divided into four blocs, as they are at present: Western, Russian, African, Latin. Can four smaller Christian blocs really become one big bloc? One Christendom? Perhaps—borrowing once again from Tolkien—such unification was meant to happen.

That is an encouraging thought: a Council of the West, bringing all the historically Christians countries of the world into one communion.

The Rescue of Israel

But what of Israel? If East is East and West is West, what of the Jewish state, which sits in the East? After all, the entire Middle Eastern region is looking more and more Mordor-like. Tolkien described that terrible wasteland: “High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-stained, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows, slowly revealed in the reluctant light.” Not much hope there, at least for Westerners. Whatever possessed us to think we could make Muslims into our own image? Was it a Ring that lured us?

We can make two points: first, Israel must survive, and second, on its current course, Israel will likely not survive.

In recent years, Israel finds its strategic situation worsening. It is increasingly confronted, not by incompetent tinhorn dictators but by determined Muslim jihadists, many of whom live in the Palestinian territories, some of whom live within Israel itself. Meanwhile, Iran proceeds with its nuclear program, while Pakistan, just a heartbeat away from Taliban-ification, already has its nukes in place, ready for export should the right fatwa be uttered. And the Russians and the Chinese, empowered and lured by high energy prices, have their own designs on the region, which include no good tidings for Jews.

Unfortunately, if we look forthrightly into the future, we can see blood and fire ahead for Israel. Aside from the civilization-jolting moral tragedy of a Second Holocaust—a phrase used freely, albeit not lightly, by such Jewish observers as Philip Roth and Ron Rosenbaum—there would be the physical devastation of the Holy Land. How would Christians recover from the demolition of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem? How would Diasporic Jews absorb the Temple Mount’s obliteration? And how, for that matter, would Muslims react to the detonation of the Noble Sanctuary, which sits atop that mount?

Any destruction of Israel would be accompanied, one way or another, by the destruction of much of the Middle East. If Masada came again to Zion, it would likely also be a Strangelovian doomsday for tens or hundreds of millions in the Middle East. And it might mean the annihilation as well of other Muslim religious sites, from Qum and Karbala to, yes, Mecca and Medina.

Some say that the solution to Middle Eastern problems is some sort of pre-emptive strike: get Them before they get Us. That, of course, is exactly the sort of bewitching that Tolkien warned most strongly against—the frenzy to solve a problem through one hubristic stroke, to grab the One Ring of power for oneself, even if that grabbing guarantees one’s own fall into darkness.

A better vision is needed. The Council of the West must do its duty, to Christians, to Jews, and to the need of the world for peace. Having agreed that Israel must survive, within the protective ambit of Christendom, the council could engage Muslims—who are, themselves, in the process of restoring the Caliphate—in a grand summit. Only then, when West meets East, in diplomatic twain, might a chance exist for an enduring settlement. When all Christians, and all Muslims, are brought to the bargaining table, they all become stakeholders in a pacific outcome.

This summit of civilizations would be difficult and expensive, even heartbreaking. It might take a hundred years. But let us begin because the reward could be great: blessed are the peacemakers.

The Knights of the West

With great effort, the West could unite around the Shire Strategy, seeking to secure and protect all our Christendom, spanning oceans and continents. But it won’t be easy. It will take more than diplomacy—it will take strength.

This Shire is ours now, but the way things are going, it won’t be ours permanently. So we must vow to defend the Shire, always. In the last of the “Rings” films, Aragorn the Strider proclaims, in full St. Crispin’s Day mode, “A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”

We in the West will always need warriors. We must have chevaliers sans peur et sans reproche—“Knights without fear and without reproach”—to safeguard our marches and protect our homes. Men such as Leonidas, whose Immortal 300 held off the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC, long enough for other Greeks to rally and save the nascent West. Or Aetius, the last noble Roman, who defeated Attila the Hun, Scourge of God, at Chalons in AD 451. Or Don Juan of Austria, who led the Holy League to naval victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571. Or Jon Sobieski, whose Polish cavalry rescued Vienna from the Turks in 1683.

These are not just legends, not just fictional characters—they were real. And if we dutifully honor those heroes, as heroic Men of the West and of Christendom, we will be rewarded with more such heroic men.

Future epics await us. Future Knights of the West, ready to defend Christendom, are waiting to be born, waiting for the call of duty. If we bring them forth with faith and wisdom and confidence, then also will come new heroes and new legends.

Maybe it was meant to be. And that is an encouraging thought. [Image]


James P. Pinkerton is a columnist for Newsday and a fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. He served in the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

September 10, 2007 Issue

Cristianismo e as religiões de mistérios

Cristianismo e as religiões de mistérios

I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.

(1)Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.

(2)Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.

(3)The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.

(4) Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).

(5) Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. "A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ....Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone."[21] This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.

(6) Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ's death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.

(7) What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, "It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction."[22] It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363.

O que eu acabei de postar está em acordo com o site a enciclopédia católica:

"But the Mysteries had already fostered, though not created, the conviction of immortality. They gave no revelations, no new and secret doctrine, but powerfully and vividly impressed certain notions (one of them, immortality) upon the imagination."

"Exactly opposite, and disastrous, were the tendencies of the idealistic Hindu, losing himself in dreams of Pantheism, self-annihilation, and divine union. Especially the worship of Vishnu (god of divine grace and devotion), of Krishna (the god so strangely assimilated by modern tendency to Christ), and of Siva (whence Saktism and Tantrism) ran riot into a helpless licence, which must modify, one feels, the whole national destiny. We cannot pass conventional judgments on these aberrations. It is easily conceded that pagans constantly lived better than their creed, or, anyhow, than their nmyth; blind terrors, faulty premisses, warped traditions originated, preserved, or distorted customs pardonable when we know their history: astounding contradictions coexist (the ritual murders and prostitution of Assyria, together with the high moral sense revealed in the self-examination of the second Shurpu tablet; the sanctified incest and gross myth of Egypt, with the superb negative Confession of the Book of the Dead)."

"Naturally, it has been sought to trace a close connexion between these rites and Christiaity (Anrich, Pfleiderer). This is inadmissible. Not only was Christianity ruthlessly exclusive, but its apologists (Justin, Tertullian, Clement) inveigh loudest against the mysteries and the myths they enshrine. Moreover, the origin of the Christian rites is historically certain from our documents. Christian baptism (essentially unique) is alien to the repeated dippings of the initiandi, even to the Taurobolium, that bath of bull's blood, whence the dipped emerged renatus in æternum.

The totemistic origin and meaning of the sacred meal (which was not a sacrifice) wherein worshippers communicated in the god and with one another (Robertson Smith, Frazer) is too obscure to be discussed here (cf. Lagrange, "Etudes, etc.", pp.257, etc.). The sacred fish of Atergatis have nothing to do with the origin of the Eucharist, nor, even probably, with the Ichthys anagram of the catacombs. (See Fr. J. Dölger: ICHTHYS, das Fischsymbol, etc., Rome, 1910. The anagram does indeed represent Iesous Christos Theou Houios Soter, the usual order of the third and fourth words being inverted owing to the familiar formula of the imperial cult; the propagation of the symbol was often facilitated owing to the popular Syrian fish-cult.) That the terminology of the mysteries was largely transported into Christian use (Paul, Ignatius, Origen, Clement etc.), is certain; that liturgy (especially of baptism), organization (of the catechumenate), disciplina arcani were affected by them, is highly probable. Always the Church has forcefully moulded words, and even concepts (soter, epipsanes, baptismos, photismos, teletes, logos) to suit her own dogma and its expression. But it were contrary to all likelihood, as well as to positive fact, to suppose that the adogmatic, mythic, codeless practices and traditions of Paganism could subdue the rigid ethic and creed of Christianity. [Consult Cumont, opp. cit.; Anrich, "Das antike Mysterienwesen, etc." (Göttingen, 1894); O. Pfleiderer, "Das Christenbild, etc." (Berlin, 1903), tr. (London, 1905). Especially Cabrol, "Orig. liturgiques" (Paris, 1906); Duchesne, "Christian Worship", passim; Blötzer in "Stimmen aus Maria Laach", LXXI, (1906), LXXII, (1907); G. Boissier, "Fin du Paganisme" (Paris, 1907), especially 1, 117 sqq.; "Religion Romaine", passim; Sir S. Dill, op. cit.; C. A. Lobeck, "Aglaophamus" (1829); E. Rohde, "Psyche" (Tübingen, 1907); J. Reville, "Relig. ` Rome, s. l. Sevès;res" (Paris, 1886); J. E. Harrison, "Prolegomena" (Cambridge, 1908), especially the appendix;