Thursday, August 05, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson: "If the Dead Could Talk..."

They’d teach us a thing or two about war.

July 30, 2004

The last two weeks I have been following the route of the American Army's drive from Normandy into Germany in 1944-5. It is quite something to visit Aachen, Mainz, the Hürtzen forest, Bastogne, Omaha Beach, and Pointe du Hoc, and then juxtapose such visits with the daily pabulum in the International Herald Tribune, CNN, and the European dailies. And after two weeks, I think most would prefer the wisdom of the noble dead to the ignorance of the shameful living.

There are over 10,400 Americans resting in the World War II cemetery at St. Avold in the Lorraine — more dead here than at the Normandy grounds. No sitting American president, I am told, has ever visited the graveyard. One should.

The necropolis of thousands of uniform white crosses and Stars of David leaves the visitor mute — sadly, unlike the experience of visiting many of the World War II museums in Holland and Germany. The inscriptions at American graveyards admonish the visitor to remember sacrifice, courage, and freedom; they assume somebody bad once started a war to hurt the weak, only to fail when somebody better stopped them.

In contrast, the "folly" of war — to paraphrase Barbara Tuchman — is what one gleans at most World War II museums in Europe. The displays, tapes, and guides suggest that a sudden madness once descended equally upon normal-thinking Europeans and Americans at places like Nijmegen and Remagen. "Stupidity," a European visitor at Arnhem lectured me, best explains why thousands of young men killed each other for no good reason over "meaningless" bridges. Perhaps — but I suppose the answer to that also depends on whether in September 1944 you ended up on the German or on the Allied side of Arnhem.

At places like Nejmegen one now reads less about the Holocaust, the invasion of Poland, and the Nazi hijacking of German culture, and much more about the need for eternal peace, along with notes about the necessity to stop racism and oppression.

Europe now really does believe that such evil disappeared spontaneously, without Willies and Joes driving to their flaming deaths in thin-skinned Sherman tanks to stop SS murderers in 70-ton Tigers. But then in a world where George Bush last year was said to be a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein, why should one be surprised that affluent Westerners perhaps feel SS killers led by Sepp Dietrich were as much victims of war as the defenseless Belgian civilians they butchered? It was not always so: The message of Verdun is not just the wastage of a million men, but also the courage of the outmanned and outgunned French turning back and stopping a different — and far worse — vision of Europe's future.

July has been a bad month for our civilization. Islamic terrorists right out of Gibbon's pages on Attila are caught with heads of their victims in their refrigerators in Saudi Arabia — while Britain and the United States squabble over the extradition of an Islamic fascist whose career was dedicated to convincing Muslims in the West to destroy the United States while whining that infidels were occupying the ancient caliphate. In fact, the opposite is true: Detroit is the largest community of expatriate Arabs in the world outside the Middle East. Emigrants flock to gracious hosts in Michigan to live under tolerance and freedom impossible in their own Arab countries.

In response, crazy al Qaeda videos keep airing on their official mouthpiece, al Jazeera, depicting Western interlopers squatting on "Arab lands." Can someone please tell the Arab world that its millions are stampeding to the Christian infidel West, while very few Americans want to go to the "Holy Lands." Saying that Mr. Johnson had no business in Saudi Arabia is like saying that a million Arabs have no business in the American Midwest.

So the genius of bin Ladenism is that to either applause or silent approval it promulgates lies that make Hitler's best perfidies seem mild. And such untruths do seem to galvanize an Arab world that is increasingly guilty of an inability to sort truth from fiction. The receptive Arab Street lives in a perpetual world of asymmetrical thinking — nursing fantasies, inventing false grievances, and above all demanding from the West what it would never offer to others. But, after all, the Middle East once was furious at Baghdad Bob not because he lied daily but because his lies were proven ludicrous and then humiliating on the world stage by the U.S. military.

So for the record: More Arabs go to the West than Westerners go eastward. Most U.S. troops are leaving Saudi Arabia; billions of American dollars flow to Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt. We have even given billions to that wretched Arafat kleptocracy and saved Muslims from Kuwait to Bosnia. U.S. jets, not deranged riff-raff from Afghanistan, stopped Milosevic. There is no legitimate complaint of the Arab world against the United States — any more than Hitler had a right to Czechoslovakia or the Japanese to Manchuria. Just because the Japanese whined that the cutting-off of U.S. petroleum forced them to bomb Pearl Harbor didn't make it true.

Those who follow bin Laden may be poor and confused; so were many of the Hitlerjugend who murdered their way into Normandy. But like the Hitler Youth, for the killers of the mujahideen all efforts at compromise and mutual understanding are the mere parlor games of the academic. We do not need to educate the Arab world that we are better than bin Laden any more than we had to beg Arab immigrants to try out new lives in an 'unknown' United States. They know what we are about, they know...

At this point the American message of religious tolerance, equality of women, democracy, and secularism is too well known — and it is no more welcome to Islamicists than the idea of tolerating Jews was to an SS Panzer division. Yet, like Hitler's young minions, the masked men in bathrobes and machetes have not yet learned to fear the power of Western democracy that could, if it so wished — as the 10,000 resting at St. Avold have so proved — put a stop to their cowardly murdering rather quickly and thus end the Arab tolerance of these beheading fanatics.

Meanwhile, the U.N. scolds Israel about its fence to keep out suicide murderers to the applause of the European and Arab worlds. Yet both sit mostly powerless while Arabs in turn systematically mass murder black Africans in the Sudan. Can we at least drop the falsity: In the new global CNN media circus, an Arab must kill 1,000 innocents deliberately to warrant the condemnation that the world allots to a Jew who kills one Arab inadvertently.

Back at home, we are told that the 9/11 Commission is to be praised for its pedestrian conclusions that we cannot afford more Taliban-like rogue regimes and thus must provide a message to match our bullets. How brilliant. But while the commission members are basking in unearned praise — remember the grandstanding of Messrs. Ben Veniste and Kerrey to the cheap applause of the gallery — would they please also tell us what to do about real problems, such as an Iran that is building a bomb, harbored many of the 9/11 terrorists, and is the natural depot of al Qaeda planners from Saudi Arabia? Preaching that we must avoid another terrorist badlands is easy; warning that we cannot any longer tolerate a fascistic Iran, well that is another thing altogether. That raises nasty, hurtful ideas like deterrence, collective action, and, yes, that evil notion of preemption.

Worse still, the commission has helped to resurrect the fable that we are hated for what we do or don't to Muslims rather than who we are. But the collective brain power of the commissioners could not adduce a simple explanation as to why French and Germans are busy rooting out plots to blow up their own citizens — despite billions of EU money sent to terrorist organizations like Hamas, support for Arafat, and cheap slurs leveled at America in Iraq. Why do Muslim radicals hate Europe when Europeans have no military power, no real presence abroad, give billions away to the Middle East, despise Israel, will sell anything to anyone anywhere at anytime, and have let millions of Arabs onto their shores? Are daily threats to Europeans earned because of what Europe does — or is the cause who they are?

For rare honesty in a dishonest age, I would prefer to return to the wisdom of those inscriptions on granite in our military resting places abroad than listen to the new global nonsense, which is as intellectually dishonest as it is dangerous in conveying the lie that ignorance, rather than evil, causes war — or that wars break out over craziness rather than the murderous intent of an aggressive party. I don't think those asleep at St. Avold would like to hear that we fought the German Nazis and Japanese fascists the "wrong way" by relying too much on the Third and Seventh Armies, and too little on education, mutual understanding, and "getting the message out."

Once, the Belgians in places like Wiltz and St. Vieth were not complaining about Americans "exporting democracy" — when Panzers were stopped in their countryside from renewing their murderous work. They did not believe that America needed quickly to join the League of Nations instead, or that the next election in Germany would bring them a better reprieve.

And the tens of thousands sleeping under their white marble crosses in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg from the Meuse-Argonne to Hamm would not agree that had we only been more reasonable and less bellicose we would have been more popular and liked. You see, they would not concede that millions followed Hitler because it was America's fault in not offering the German people an alternative to barbarism. In fact, they didn't much care why Germany hated America, only how to defeat it and then — but only then — to guide it on a new path away from its savage past.

Indeed, if our dead could rise out of their graves they would surely rebuke us for our present blasphemy — shaking their fingers and remonstrating that bin Laden and his followers, both active and passive, are no different from Hitler and the other evil killers of their own age, who deserve to be defeated, not reasoned with or apologized to, and not understood. The voices of our dead abroad murmur to us, the deaf, that a nation is liked not by being good and weak or bad and strong, but only by proving both principled and resolute.

Sleep in peace, you ten thousand of St. Avold, and let us pray that we, the smug beneficiaries of your ultimate sacrifice, may still wake up from our own slumber.

— Victor Davis Hanson, an NRO contributor, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of The Soul of Battle and Carnage and Culture, among other books. His website is

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Daniel Pipes: "A Slick Islamist Heads to Jail"

Original article available at: New York Sun August 3, 2004

In 2002, the spokesman for FBI director Robert Mueller memorably described the American Muslim Council (AMC) as the "the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States." A year later, the Catholic bishops called the AMC "the premier, mainstream Muslim group in Washington."

Its founder and long-time chief, Abdurahman Alamoudi, was a Washington fixture. He had many meetings with both Clintons in the White House and once joined George W. Bush at a prayer service dedicated to victims of the 9/11 attacks. Alamoudi arranged a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner for congressional leaders. He six times lectured abroad for the State Department and founded an organization to provide Muslim chaplains for the Department of Defense. One of his former AMC employees, Faisal Gill, serves as policy director at the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence division.
In brief, as the Washington Post describes him, Alamoudi was "a pillar of the local Muslim community."

But the one-time high-flyer last week signed a plea agreement with the American government admitting his multiple crimes in return for a reduced sentence. His confession makes for startling reading.

Alamoudi acknowledges having obtained money from the Libyan government and other foreign sources, "unlawfully, knowingly, and willfully falsified, concealed and covered up by a trick, scheme and device." He transmitted these funds to the United States, "outside of the knowledge of the United States government and without attracting the attention of law enforcement and regulatory authorities."

In doing so, he engaged in illegal financial transactions and filed false tax returns. He lied about his overseas travels, his interest in a Swiss bank account, his affiliation with a Specially Designated Terrorist (the Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzook), and his membership in terrorist-related organizations.
Of particular note are admissions by Alamoudi that he:
Was summoned by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi to two meetings and as a result of these Alamoudi helped organize the assassination of Saudi crown prince Abdullah. (The plot was foiled.)

Transported money from Libya to Saudi Arabia to the United States, where he deposited it in the American Muslim Foundation, one of his non-profits.
Omitted on his American citizenship application his connections to many radical organizations: the United Association for Studies and Research, Marzook Legal Fund, Mercy International, American Task Force for Bosnia, Fiqh Council of North America, Muslims for a Better America, Eritrean Liberation Front/People's Liberation Force, and Council for the National Interest Foundation.

Then there is the fact that Alamoudi's Palm Pilot, seized at the time of his arrest, contained contact information for seven men designated as global terrorists by U.S. authorities. Also, law enforcement found an unsigned Arabic-language document in Alamoudi's office with ideas for Hamas to undertake "operations against the Israelis to delay the peace process." And Alamoudi has at least indirect links to Osama bin Laden through the Taibah International Aid Association, an American non-profit where he served along with Abdullah A. bin Laden, Osama's nephew.

For his crimes, Alamoudi's punishment can include serving up to 23 years in prison, forfeiting US$1¼ million received from the Libyans, paying six year's worth of back taxes plus penalties, and having his U.S. citizenship revoked. Alamoudi could also be removed from the country and not allowed back in. (But the agreement defers decision on Alamoudi's expulsion until after his prison term ends, suggesting that he is singing like a bird.)

Alamoudi is hardly the only high-profile, seemingly non-violent leader of an Islamist organization to associate with terrorists. At the Council on American-Islamic Relations, five staffers and board members have been accused or convicted of terrorism-related charges and the same has happened with leaders of the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland, Holy Land Foundation, Benevolence International Foundation, and the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom.

The Alamoudi story points to the urgent need that the FBI, White House, Congress, State Department, Pentagon, and Homeland Security – as well as other institutions, public and private, throughout the West – not continue guilelessly to assume that smooth-talking Islamists are free of criminal, extremist, or terrorist ties. Or, as I put it in late 2001: "Individual Islamists may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers."

Militant Islam is the enemy; even its slickest adherents need to be viewed as such.

From Original article available at:

Ann Coulter: "I'll Have the Sandy Berger and a Side of Lies"

Ann Coulter (archive)
August 5, 2004 Print Send

I was under the naive impression that Clinton administration scandals would end once the Clinton administration ended. Even I, someone who has not exactly had her eyes closed to Clinton-era buffoonery, did not imagine that the most corrupt administration in the history of the country would find a way to keep having scandals while out of office.

But poor old Sandy Berger ends up in hot water long after everyone's gone home. Someday we'll be reading about Clinton officials causing incidents in nursing homes. (Which Clinton administration official do you imagine that might involve?)

The undisputed facts are these: Clinton's national security adviser removed documents with the highest possible security classification from the National Archives, took them home with him, and disposed of some of the documents. (Still hotly contested is whether Berger also stuffed top-secret documents in his socks.)

The New York Times' response was to hysterically accuse the Bush administration of corruption. In a front-page story the week the story broke, the Times accused the Bush administration of leaking the news of the Berger investigation for cynical political reasons – based on the Times' careful accretion of no facts whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the front-page story on the scandal itself – well, actually, that didn't make the front page. That story was demurely reported on page A-16 of the Times.

The Times' defense brief for Berger consisted of the information that Berger's friends say Berger would never do anything to harm his country. It's always good to hear Democrats assure us that one of them isn't a traitor. With the Democrats, you need constant assurances we're not dealing with another Alger Hiss. David Gergen, the Tariq Aziz for the Democrats, says the incident is "more innocent than it looks." Well, it sure couldn't be any less innocent than it looks.

These people think if Dick Cheney uses a word with the letter "H," it's a secret code from the pope proving a conspiracy with Halliburton. But they can't see what all the fuss is about when a former national security adviser comes under criminal investigation and a search warrant is executed on his office and home after he pilfers top-secret government documents. Or at least it's not nearly as consequential as the question of who leaked the story.

The Adam Nagourney of CBS News, Dan Rather, introduced the Mr. Sticky Fingers scandal this way:

Sandy Berger, who was national security adviser under President Clinton, stepped aside today as an adviser to Sen. John Kerry. CBS' John Roberts reports this was triggered by a carefully orchestrated leak about Berger, and the timing of it appears to be no coincidence.

The conspiracy nuts' story on Republicans leaking the Berger investigation has been a little short on details, inasmuch as it is based on no evidence, no witnesses, no sources – not even a plausible theory. As former Moynihan aide Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out, the Bush administration's interests were not served by the leak of the Berger investigation this early in the campaign. As the Democrats have taught us, the best time to release damaging information about your opponent – say, a 30-year-old DUI – is about 72 hours before the election.

Tending to support the theory that the Kerry campaign leaked the story is the fact that the Bush White House has known about Berger for months; Kerry was told of the investigation only the week the story was leaked.

Berger's relationship to the Kerry campaign has undergone a massive transformation since news of the Great Hanes Robbery broke. One month ago, the Times was calling Berger one of "Mr. Kerry's top foreign policy advisers." Last week the Times described Berger as "an informal, unpaid adviser to Sen. John Kerry's campaign." By next week he'll be "some guy who heckled Teresa in Milwaukee."
At least they aren't calling Berger a "stalker."

The people who should be on their knees thanking God that W is president are the National Archives employees who caught Sandy Burglar. If Clinton were still president, instead of a serious criminal investigation, we'd get six months of attacks on the poor National Archives employees as trailer trash, sluts, gold-diggers, etc., etc. (Of course, if Clinton were still president, some National Archives employees might well be on their knees, but for a different reason.)

Maybe the Kerry campaign could borrow from another Clinton-era scandal – the ransacking of the FBI files – and claim that, like Craig Livingston, no one knows who hired Berger to work on the Kerry campaign.

Given the Democratic scandals, their presidential candidates might consider the following litmus-test question before hiring their campaign staff: "Have you ever put anything into your shorts, or taken anything out of your shorts, that could negatively affect this campaign?"

Ann Coulter is host of, a member group.
©2004 Universal Press Syndicate

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Irfan Khawaja: "Critical Reception: The Meaning of Fahrenheit 9/11"

The press juggernaut for Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is now well underway, and from the sound of it, what we have on our hands is a full-fledged love-fest. Given the pockmarked nature of the beloved, however, the chansons d'amour and billets doux have been marked by a curious, even schizophrenic, ambivalence. The going trend is to enumerate the film's flaws (thereby demonstrating one's nominal commitment to intellectual integrity) while pronouncing it a work of staggering filmic genius and civic commitment (thereby demonstrating that intellectual integrity makes no difference to anything).

Thus Paul Krugman tells us in The New York Times that the film promotes "a few unproven conspiracy theories," and induces its viewers to believe "some things that probably aren't true." Having done so, he then praises the film's "appeal to working-class Americans" and its "public service" for having manipulated us in the right way.

William Raspberry describes Fahrenheit 9/11 in The Washington Post as an "overwrought piece of propaganda," a "110-minute hatchet job that doesn't even pretend to be fair"-and for good measure, as dishonest, lacking in objectivity, and partially fabricated. That doesn't stop him, of course, from praising it for doing a "masterful job," for having the right "attitude" and for (literally) demonizing George W. Bush.

David Edelstein describes Fahrenheit 9/11 in Slate as disgusting, lamenting its "boorish, bullying" qualities, and describing it as "an abuse of power"; in the same breath, he tells us that the film "delighted" him, and that he "celebrates" its sheer panache.

Todd Gitlin's review in Open Democracy calls Fahrenheit 9/11 a "shoddy work": the film's "sloppy insinuations, emotional blackmail and all-around demagoguery," he argues, are an affront to one's "conscience," and make it the moral equivalent of a beer commercial. The same conscientious concern induces Gitlin to describe Fahrenheit 9/11 somewhat paradoxically as a moral necessity. Meanwhile, he lionizes Moore himself as a "master demagogue."

Juan Cole describes the film on his weblog as making "no sense," as "inaccurate" and as "full of illogic"; having said so, he goes out of his way to tell us that he found it "inspired." Stanley Kaufmann in The New Republic calls the film "slipshod in its making, juvenile in its trappings," and in considerable part, "contextually inane"-indeed, as "debased," "smug," and "regrettable." Having filled a column full of invective of this sort, he ends his review by praising Moore's fans for the "ardor" with which they've received his film.

Perhaps the first example of this "our-propaganda-good-their-propaganda-bad" genre was A.O. Scott's review of Fahrenheit 9/11 in The New York Times, which can be taken as representative of the literature as a whole June 23). Best described as a case study in sacrificium intellectus, the review repays scrutiny as much for what it says about Moore's film as for what it says about the intellectual integrity of his acquiescent critics and adoring fans.

The review begins by telling us that Moore's film "blithely tramples the boundary between documentary and demagogy." If this means anything, it means that the film exploits its audience's emotions to put something over on them. And yet, Scott insists, the film deserves high marks for being a "high spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression." And so, in the name of "democracy"-which depends for its existence on rational discourse—we're to make allowances for demagogy, which consists in the subversion of cognition. If that sounds like a contradiction, rest assured: there's more to come.

"High spirits" and "unruliness," of course, are the defining traits of infants and toddlers; to describe a film in these terms is to invite the inference that its auteur be regarded as a member of the same demographic group, and his work judged by the appropriate standards. A functionary for the local Democratic Party apparatus where I live (which has actively promoted Moore's film as a vote-getter for Kerry) summarizes the relevant attitude rather well: "I thought it would be really fun for people to see the movie with like-minded people…[The film] reaches people in a way that reading about it or just seeing news reports about what's going on in the world doesn't." The operative words here are "like-minded" and "fun."

So what insight does Fahrenheit 9/11 convey about "what's going on in the world"? Turning to Scott, we learn that the film's "argument" is "synthetic rather than comprehensive, and…not always internally consistent." How "synthetic" contrasts with "comprehensive" is anybody's guess, but "not always internally consistent" sounds like a euphemistic way of saying that Moore doesn't have much of a case at all-a theme that recurs, strangely enough, in practically every review that's so far been written, whether by his defenders or by his detractors.

Straining to find something resembling a straightforward description of the film's thesis, we learn that Moore "dwells on the connections between the Bush family and the Saudi Arabian elite." Connections, huh? Well, having spent a year debunking the supposedly discredited "connections" between Al Qaeda and the Ba'ath Party of Iraq, everyone in this fair republic ought to know a phony "connection" when they see one. Turning to the evidence for this "connection," Scott informs us that while Moore has done his level best to explain it, his "larger point is not altogether clear." So we're dealing with a "not always consistent account" of a "not altogether clear" point. Getting warmer….

But don't let the fraudulence of Moore's "connection" get in the way of the "fun." And don't let the pathetic deflation of his "Bush-flew-the-bin-Laden-family-out-of-the-country" conspiracy do so, either. After all, as Scott tells us, the film's "confusion" is precisely what makes it "an authentic and indispensable document of its time," and "worth seeing, debating, and thinking about, regardless of your political allegiances."

How one measures the "worth" of a film that evinces so brazen a contempt for the truth is unclear. How we're to "think about or debate" a film that seeks only to exploit our emotions is yet another imponderable. And how we're to "wrest clarity" (Scott's phrase) from what Scott has just described as an orgy of inscrutability, demagogy, and self-contradiction-well, let's just say that that's what makes Fahrenheit 9/11 the demanding film that it is.

Scott ends his review with the by-now hackneyed claim that "Mr. Moore's instincts have never been sharper, and he is, as ever, at his best when he turns down the showmanship and listens to what people have to say"-a roundabout way of saying that he's at his best when he isn't around. It seems almost superfluous to point out that the reprieve from his presence might be intensified if he were to absent himself altogether. But I guess Moore's instincts aren't sharp enough to turn down the showmanship to that degree, and Scott's instincts aren't sharp enough to see why he wouldn't.

I should add that Scott is referring here to a scene in the film in which a mother grieves for the son that she's just lost in Iraq. This is a reminder that death, too, is part of the "fun," "high spirits" and generally "unruly" hijinx of this madcap film—to be exploited for maximum partisan advantage so that "like-minded" and "fun-loving" audiences can avoid the exertions of inquiry about Iraq as they wallow in the sanctimonious muck of "democratic self-expression."

What's the point—you might ask—of reviews that praise a film so extravagantly for its flaws while offering so devastating an enumeration of them?

Maybe it's to embody in print what Moore's film embodies in celluloid: the desire to have things all ways at once, to do so while wearing a self-conferred badge of intellectual sophistication—and above all, to get away with the scam while winning the moral high ground. And so we get reviews that neither succeed in appeasing Moore's desire to be taken seriously, nor manage to offer a coherent critique of his malfeasances, but instead pretend to discharge both tasks at once—winking and nodding at us all the while to induce complicity in their cowardice.

Moore's film, we're told, is unfair, impolite, unsubtle, unwise, obnoxious, tendentious, and maddeningly self-contradictory—all Scott's terms, not mine. And yet, Scott insists, Moore is a "credit to the republic" for having made the film despite this. It seems not to have occurred to Scott that once you concede that crap like Fahrenheit 9/11 is a "credit to the republic," you've already conceded that the republic is itself a piece of crap—at which point it seems futile to insist that the film is but "a partisan rallying cry, an angry polemic, a muckraking inquisition into the use and abuse of power."

When you boil down the posturing of the Moore—boosting genre, you find at last a very strange and hypocritical exercise in special pleading and excuse-making. What Moore's quasi-defenders are telling us is that an illogical, dishonest and tendentious film offers an inarticulate indictment of an evil Administration. The trouble is, if we take this morally confused verdict at face value, we reach not an indictment but an equivalence—not the intended conclusion that Moore's film is "worth seeing and debating" but the rather different conclusion that Michael Moore is morally on par with George Bush, and that his film has all of the moral credibility of an ad for the Bush campaign. Is that really where these people want to go?

I guess it is. In his review of The Clinton Wars—Sidney Blumenthal's memoir of the Clinton years—Christopher Hitchens offers the following glimpse into the mentality of the liberal "apparatchik":

I'll never forget a Georgetown dinner, at which [Blumenthal] was probably the most conservative person in attendance, where various liberals wondered aloud what the limits of 'lesser evil' politics might be. One misgiving after another was mentioned, until Blumenthal impatiently quelled the bleats. 'You don't understand,' he said. 'It's our turn.'

"Our turn." Such is the standard to which the wise now repair, and which they describe in all candor as calling for "our propaganda" (Todd Gitlin's phrase). The strategy here is to mimic from the Left what the Left professes to hate about the Right. You could call it Machiavellian ("it is necessary to learn how not to be good…") or even Miltonian ("To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell…")—so long as you forgot the stature of its practitioners. But I don't want to insult them. One eventually learns that there's no feasible way to insult a crew like this one: there's no insult you can hurl at them that they aren't content to hurl at themselves. There's no contempt like self-contempt.

Michael Moore may have won his prize at Cannes, he may make his millions, and he may even change the course of Election 2004. But the fact remains that he either has to repudiate Fahrenheit 9/11 or spend the rest of his life coming up with rationalizations for it. I myself would hate to face a choice like that. But if that is Michael Moore's definition of success, as it seems to be, what more is there to say but "to the victor belongs the spoils"?

References: Paul Krugman, "Moore's Public Service," New York Times, July 2:

William Raspberry, "Fiery Hatchet Job," Washington Post, June 28:

David Edelstein, "Proper Propaganda," Slate, June 24:

Todd Gitlin, "Michael Moore, Alas," Open Democracy, July 1:

Juan Cole, "Informed Comment," June 29:

Stanley Kauffman, "Accusation," The New Republic, July 19:

A.O. Scott, "Unruly Scorn Leaves Room for Restraint, But Not A Lot," New York Times, June 23:

Princeton Town Topics, " 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Documentary Draws Sold-Out Audiences to Garden Theater," June 30:

Alexander Bolton, "Clarke Claims Responsibility: Ex-Terrorism Czar Approved post-9/11 Flights for Bin Laden Family," The Hill, May 26:

Christopher Hitchens, "Thinking Like an Apparatchik," The Atlantic, July 2003:

Irfan Khawaja is adjunct professor of philosophy at The College of New Jersey.

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Larry Miller: "It's Never a Lie When Your Wife Tells It"

Of domestic bliss, the white lie, and the almighty eyebrow. by Larry Miller 08/02/2004 12:00:00 AM

THE DIVINE MRS. M. went with a friend to have something done to their feet the other day. It was a Saturday afternoon, about one o'clock, and I was downstairs reading the obituaries and watching our sons build things and destroy them. (I love the obits; they're like tiny biographies of regular people, and are frequently touching.) She stuck her head down the stairs and said, "Susie just called and asked if I wanted to get a pedicure. Can Paul bring the kids by, and the two of you can watch them all together? It'll be fun.


I think this is what is commonly known in the political trade as plausible deniability. At some future congressional hearing, or in a court of law, or at The Hague, she can always say, "But I asked you first, honey. Remember?" (By the way, I have no idea where The Hague is, but since it's always capitalized, I assume it's a city, or a zone, or a nightclub; additionally, it can only be called sloppy thinking to have anything involved with international law rhyme with "vague.")

But every woman knows that springing something on her husband like this is akin to the school bully saying, "I'm going to take your lunch money now. Okay?" It's going to happen with or without your consent, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.
When it comes to quick decision-making around the house, married men can best be described as dullards, and this is charitable. To ask a fast, three-part question is over-taxing a weak machine. Susie called about this, and Paul's going to do that, and everything is fine, and you'll be very happy . . . What husband ever does more than turn slowly, breath heavily, smile like an opium-eater, and mumble, "Wh--what?" (With pathological optimism, every man translates whatever his wife says as, "If you go along with things, maybe later I'll let you touch me." This is generally ill-founded.)

In any case, it's axiomatic that 25 minutes later she was gone like the dinosaurs, and Paul and I were dumbly handing a mountain of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to a bunch of boys who had long since abandoned their desire for food in favor of a far more nourishing buffet: running and screaming. We trudged back upstairs, sat down, silently munched a poorly-made wad from the platters in front of us, and then turned to each other in mid-chew, saying, "What just happened?" Neither of us knew, so we returned to working the torn, lumpy bread and sighed, each man giddily imagining the endless horizon of custodial "fun" over which he was poised.

Three-or-so hours later, the Duchess and the Baroness strolled back in yakking, which was natural enough, since they had only finished a third of the non-stop conversation begun when they'd left. They came downstairs to check the kids, and immediately hit the ceiling, which I thought was unwarranted, given that a very solid 80 percent of them were still alive. That's a good stat, and I don't care where you're from.

OKAY, things were a little messy. The den looked like a combination potato chip, Lego, and pillow-stuffing factory, which, for all I know, it may actually be. Yes, there was some blood, but not a lot, and most of it was smeared on brown furniture, anyway. Paul and I had let the chariot reins slacken a little, and were in the bar (only one room removed) on our second beer. Well, his second, my fourth, whatever. The more important thing by far was that we hadn't made the move to whiskey. After all, that would be irresponsible.

The women looked at us, we looked at them, and several seconds passed silently, which, if you took away the fear and hate in the air, would normally make the start of a good Penthouse letter. But they had bigger fish to fry, or at least bigger feet, so to speak. They smiled broadly, bent a knee, and said, "Well? What do you think? Susie got the baby blue, and I got the candy-apple red."

It's difficult to know what to say at a moment like that. Actually, it's easy to know, it's just difficult to do, especially when one of you has made the move to whiskey. (See if you can guess which one.) What we should've said is, "Girls, you look great. I've never seen prettier feet in my life, and we're glad you went. We insist you do it every week."

But that's not what came out. Instead, when my wife said, "Do you love the colors?" I said, "On a '64 Mustang? What man wouldn't?"

THERE WAS ANOTHER PAUSE NOW, during which the ladies tried to decide whether I had actually said that, or if it could've been just an auditory hallucination. At the same time, Paul whipped his head around and whispered, "Please don't."

Ah, but the Count of Monte Sarcasm was out of the tower and off of the island, and would certainly have danced a jig around the room, had not all four of us been saved by the oddest thing.

Paul and I leaned forward, blinked in puzzlement, and said, "What's wrong with your eyebrows?"

And Schmeling is down! It's over, it's over, it's all over!

"Nothing," they mumbled, but we could see that there was, even through the naturally gloomy and oppressive lighting I insist on in The Nineteenth Hole. (The name I call our bar in the house; sometimes I call it The Eleventh Frame, sometimes The Eighteenth Amendment, or The Eleventh Commandment. You get the idea.) Yes, no question about it, there was something wrong with their eyebrows.

For one thing, they were gone.

NOW, I'm not one to quibble about my wife's grooming habits, because I love her, it's her face, and anything she wants to do is okay with me. Within reason. I know women like to try this and that, but the plain fact is, if I never say, "Gee, I think I'd rather you didn't," The Divine Mrs. M. has sometimes begun coming up with unsubtle ideas, which is fine if you're in the cast of Hairspray, but can be less desirable in someone you would eventually like to kiss. I would be mortified to tell you some of the things she's thought of, and not just for herself. She talked me into trying a salt massage in a hotel once. She booked me an hour in the health club with a muscular guy, and exactly one minute in, he said, "You feel a little tense. Anything in particular you want?" And I said, "Yeah. What's it cost me for you to stop now?" Ten seconds later and 20 beans lighter, I was showering off the salt and walking back to the room. Turns out I guess she was right, since I felt infinitely better.

But in addition to having a structural function on the face, I think a woman's eyebrows are pretty, and these two had shaved theirs off. In their place were four high, arched, dark, curved, colored . . . lines. My wife is a natural redhead with light, freckled skin, the kind usually called English or Irish skin depending, one assumes, on whether you're English or Irish. Susie is a blond, and they both have blue eyes.

However, the new brows not only gave them both an unchangeable expression of surprise, but made them look like the two toughest manicurists in Sicily in 1958.
"Okay," my wife said, "We made a mistake. It's not that bad, is it?"

Even the normally diplomatic Paul said, "Yeah, actually, it is." For once I kept my mouth shut, but only because I was glazed with horror. I must've looked like Ricky Ricardo when he walked in on Lucy's incorrectly-mixed biscuits yeasting themselves out of the oven.

"Don't worry," she said, "It's temporary and comes right off. It's a girlie thing, okay? They wash off in two days. A couple of showers."

A week later I was watching her bath one of the kids and suddenly looked closer through the curls of water. "Uh, honey, I don't think the eyebrows are giving up the fight."
"I know," she said, rolling her eyes in good cheer and sweetness. "I think they--Oh, honey, do me a favor, and hand me the washcloth?"

A WEEK AFTER THAT we were having a spirited chat about how my letting the oldest sneak out of bed to watch The Wild Bunch with me had just undermined her authority, when I said, "Wait a minute. Those eyebrows haven't budged. In fact, I think they're getting darker. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she said, "It just takes a little bit, like I told you."

And it might have ended just like that. I might not have noticed a thing, except that she made a giant mistake that gave her clever little game away, something I knew she never would have done except in a moment of panic and desperation.
She kissed me. Then she said she thought she might have a drink, and did I want her to make one for me? Then she used this momentum to glide out of the room with a sweet smile.

She never does any of these things.

Oh, the fox! The coyote! The panther! I followed her downstairs, and she actually tried to walk around me by seven feet. A wide berth, even in a house covered with toys.
"Okay, what's wrong with your eyebrows?"

"It's going to take a few months, but it's not a big deal."
"You said two days."
"You didn't like them, and I didn't want you to get upset."
I thought about this next one for a second. "You lied."
"I didn't want you to get upset."
"So you said. Do I get to go out with an actress and lie about it, because I don't want you to get upset?"
"Don't be stupid, it's not the same thing."
"I know, I just like to bring it up every few years."
"Wives get to tell white lies sometimes, when they know it'll help the family."
I had another nifty wisecrack loaded, but she pressed the amber restorative into my hand, turned back into the bar and said, "Hey, feel like making a fire? Come on, we'll watch it from the couch."

Hmm. If this works out, she can tattoo them green next time.

Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.

© Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Neuhaus: The Culture Wars Go International

The Public Square: The Culture Wars Go International
By Richard John Neuhaus

Copyright (c) 2003-2004 First Things 139 (January 2004): 76-92.
The Culture Wars Go International
“Catholic Sectarianism”
Martin Marty’s Martin Luther
Protestants, Catholics, and Mary
While We’re At It

The Culture Wars Go International

The defenders of judicial activism, properly understood as the judicial usurpation of politics, count on wearing down their critics over time. Robert H. Bork is not easily worn down. He returns to the battle with a new book, Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges (AEI, 159 pp., $25). Not only in America but throughout the nations of the West, judges have seized the political authority that properly belongs to the people and their elected representatives. Bork’s opening chapter on this “permanent revolution” carries an apt epigraph by James Madison: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.” While Bork has written extensively on judicial imperialism, in these pages and elsewhere, the present book addresses the international dimensions of the problem, illustrating his argument with fascinating studies of the politics of law in the United Nations, Canada, and Israel.

“Judicial activism,” Bork writes, “results from the enlistment of judges on one side of the culture war in every Western nation. Despite denials by some that any such conflict exists, the culture war is an obtrusive fact. It is a struggle between the cultural or liberal left and the great mass of citizens who, left to their own devices, tend to be traditionalists. The courts are enacting the agenda of the cultural left.” Such judges belong to the New Class whose members select, reinforce, and reward one another on the assumption that they know better than ordinary people how we ought to live. They have few compunctions about making up law in order to coerce others into conforming with their understanding of virtue. Bork supplies instance after instance of this process at work in the U.S., with particular reference to the Supreme Court, and shows the ways in which we are now facing a “transnational culture war.” He writes, “Courts possess very potent powers, both coercive and moral. Although that power is asserted over an entire culture, it is not always dramatic because it proceeds incrementally, but since the increments accumulate, it is all the more potent for that. What judges have wrought is a coup d’etat—slow-moving and genteel, but a coup d’etat nonetheless.”

Countries belonging to the United Nations, many of them antidemocratic and downright tyrannical, cooperate with Western nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in creating international laws in order to impose upon their countries measures that they know they could not win by democratic means. “International law,” says Bork, “is not law but politics. For that reason, it is dangerous to give the name ‘law,’ which summons up respect, to political struggles that are essentially lawless.” The international New Class is often deeply anti-American and works hand-in-glove with American NGOs that are hostile to the morality of their own society. The result is that “international law becomes one more weapon in the domestic culture war.” The U.S. Supreme Court has also taken to citing the authority of foreign courts. In one risible instance, in a case having to do with delays in execution, Justice Stephen G. Breyer invoked decisions by the Privy Council of Jamaica and the supreme courts of India and Zimbabwe.

The Supreme Court appeals to a “living Constitution” and “evolving” social standards, but it is mainly the judiciary that is doing the evolving. Bork quotes Justice Antonin Scalia: “What secret knowledge, one must wonder, is breathed into lawyers when they become Justices of this Court, that enables them to discern that a practice which the text of the Constitution does not clearly proscribe, and which our people have regarded as constitutional for two hundred years, is in fact unconstitutional? . . . Day by day, case by case, [the Court] is busy designing a Constitution for a country I do not recognize.” Bork comments: “What we call conservatism on the Court is usually a mere holding action; liberals set the agenda and conservatives resist but rarely roll back prior liberal rulings or advance any agenda of their own. The result is a steady movement, occasionally delayed for the moment, of the Constitution to the cultural left.”

Conservative Holding Actions-

The chapter on Canada’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms is withering. The Canadian courts have interpreted the Charter to mean that any legislation can be challenged by anyone who has shown “a general interest in the validity of the legislation and that there is no other reasonable and effective manner in which the issue may be brought before the Court.” This practically guarantees that all issues are subject to judicial rather than political resolution. And, of course, that is what has happened with the court-imposed law regarding same-sex marriage. True, the Charter has a “notwithstanding” clause whereby the legislature can, for a time, block the implementation of court-made law. The idea of the clause is to check runaway courts, but, for complicated reasons, the clause has fallen into desuetude. The mere existence of such a checking power, Bork contends, is used to encourage judicial adventurism. “The mystique of the courts is too great,” he observes. The power to challenge the courts exists on paper, but the political costs of using it are simply too high.

Israel is the supreme example of judicial imperialism securely entrenched. Bork writes: “Imagine, if you can, a supreme court that has gained the power to choose its own members, wrested control of the attorney general from the executive branch, set aside legislation and executive action when there were disagreements about policy, altered the meaning of enacted law, forbidden government action at certain times, ordered government action at other times, and claimed and exercised the authority to override national defense measures. Imagine as well a supreme court that has created a body of constitutional law despite the absence of an actual constitution. . . . Israel’s Supreme Court has done them all.” The court is decidedly on the side of a post-Zionism that has broken with the founding ideas of Israel. Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court, has blithely decreed that, in cases of disagreement, “the views of the enlightened community in Israel” must prevail, and the court gets to decide who is and who is not “enlightened.” Bork’s judgment is grim: “Israel has set a standard for judicial imperialism that can probably never be surpassed, and, one devoutly hopes, will never be equaled elsewhere. The sad irony is that the Supreme Court, operating with a Basic Law that specifies Israel’s values are both Jewish and democratic, is gradually producing an Israel that is neither Jewish nor democratic.”

Much of what Bork says in Coercing Virtue he has said before. The important contribution of the book is to put the dynamics of judicial imperialism into an international context. “If we do not understand the worldwide corruption of the judicial function, we do not comprehend the full scope of the political revolution that is overtaking the West,” he writes. “The political revolution in Western nations is the gradual but unceasing replacement of government by elected officials with government by appointed judges.” Perhaps the revolution was inevitable. “Wherever there is judicial review, two forces are placed in opposition: the democratic principle of the elected branches of government and the antidemocratic principle of the judiciary.” Today, the antidemocratic principle is “ascendant and aggressive.” “The crucial question for all nations that desire to remain self-governing is how to tame and limit the antidemocratic aggressions of their judiciaries and of the international tribunals and forums we are so blithely and thoughtlessly creating.”

That is where Judge Bork leaves the matter. He undoubtedly knows that readers will complain that he does not propose a clear remedy. His job in the present book is diagnostic rather than prescriptive. It is said that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. But one recalls again that, in the absence of a candle, it is sometimes important to curse the darkness, just to make sure that we do not resign ourselves to it. Both domestically and internationally, the forces advancing the judicial usurpation of politics are formidable. But so also is the core conviction of democracy that “just government is derived from the consent of the governed.” It is by no means certain but one may be permitted to hope that there are still leaders possessed of sufficient wisdom and courage to give political effect to that conviction.

“Catholic Sectarianism”

Intelligent and good people can end up taking wrongheaded positions, which is a point underscored by Paul Griffiths in taking a wrongheaded position on same-sex marriage. Griffiths, a frequent contributor to these pages who holds the Catholic Studies chair at the University of Illinois, Chicago, argues in Commonweal that Catholics should not oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage and, indeed, may well support it. Don’t get him wrong; Griffiths is not a conventional “progressive” given to ignoring church authority. He has read very carefully the July 2003 instruction from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stating that same-sex unions are contrary to Catholic teaching and should be strongly opposed. Griffiths writes, “Catholics are bound to show at least obsequium religiosum, religiously submissive respect or deference, to magisterial teaching like that found in the CDF’s document.” He understands himself to be simply raising questions aimed at “contributing to the further clarification of the Church’s mind over time while still maintaining submissive deference to what is taught. This is the ordinary process by which the Church’s teaching develops.”

Griffiths underscores that he is an “orthodox Catholic,” and offers an elegantly phrased argument, the gist of which is that “the public culture of the United States is now profoundly pagan, opposed in almost every significant particular to what the Church advocates as a justly ordered society,” and, since the Church’s understanding of marriage is so distinctive, complex, and humanly beautiful, it should not be debased or compromised by “entanglement” with a pagan society’s marriage laws. So let the pagan society go its way on marriage, including same-sex unions, and let the Church be true to herself. The happy result, he says, “would clarify Catholic teaching about marriage, help Catholics to live in accord with it, make it more attractive to non-Catholics, and so, in the end, conform the body politic more closely to Christ by making the Church more seductively beautiful.”

In the same issue, Margaret O’Brien Steinfels offers a stiff rejoinder to Griffiths, pointing out that the understanding of marriage as a life-long covenanted union between a man and woman is not uniquely Catholic. It is shared by other Christians, Jews, and, indeed, people of almost every culture and religion. “Withdrawal from public debate on the definition of marriage or any other publicly contested issue,” writes Steinfels, “is the gesture of sectarians—a perennial temptation of certain Protestant groups, and now of some Catholics, both right and left, as well as the newly self-styled ‘orthodox Catholics.’” The sneer quotes around “orthodox Catholics” are unseemly, and on most questions of Catholic moment I am closer to Paul Griffiths than Margaret Steinfels, but she is right about the dangers of “Catholic sectarianism.”

Moreover, throughout his argument Griffiths assumes that this “profoundly pagan” society is moving toward same-sex marriage, when, in fact, there is massive popular opposition to such a change and the only chance of its happening, as its proponents are keenly aware, is through the dictate of courts. The proposed Federal Marriage Amendment intends to maintain marriage as what most Americans believe marriage is and should be, even if many betray that belief in practice. To speak of America as a deeply pagan or post-Christian culture is a convenient way to abdicate responsibility for what is, in troubling fact, an incorrigibly, conflictedly, and confusedly Christian society.

Griffiths also overlooks the fact that in the Catholic understanding—an understanding shared by many others—marriage is part of the natural order, created and blessed by God. As the Code of Canon Law puts it, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.” To which is added, “This covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” By concentrating exclusively on sacramental marriage, Griffiths ignores the responsibility of the Church to teach and protect the meaning of marriage in the natural order. This is an error hardly limited to Paul Griffiths, and it has worked considerable mischief, not least in the sometimes promiscuous granting of annulments in the U.S.

Then there is the question of what is meant by obsequium religiosum when one publicly contends that the Magisterium is wrong about a Catholic’s public moral duty. It is important to state Griffith’s argument fairly. He writes, “I conclude that Catholics may support the legalization of same-sex marriages, together with the progressive disentanglement of sacramental marriage from state-sponsored contractual marriage.” He might say that he is not actually contradicting or rejecting the CDF instruction since it does not explicitly address the second part of his conclusion, namely, the disentanglement from civil marriage law. In truth, however, the instruction, backed by centuries of Catholic teaching and practice, assumes a desired compatibility between church and civil law on marriage. And behind that assumption are centuries of Catholic teaching and practice related to the proper relationship between Church and culture.

In this and every society, there is much that is opposed to, much that is compatible with, and much that is supportive of what, in Griffiths’ words, “the Church advocates as a justly ordered society.” In recent history, the complexity of our circumstance and our duties is admirably addressed in documents such as the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus and the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In these and numerous other magisterial statements, the point is that we are enjoined to advocate, as effectively as we can, a justly ordered society. The alternative is to abandon society to its “profoundly pagan” fate, in the hope that a few brands will be rescued from the fire by the attraction of the Church’s countercultural witness. In his Commonweal article, Professor Griffiths is taking on much more than a disagreement over same-sex marriage. But I expect he knows that.

Martin Marty’s Martin Luther

We can be grateful that an editor of Viking’s Penguin Lives suggested that the series should include “Martin Luther by Martin Marty” (Martin Luther, 199 pp., $19.95). For all the academic and popular attention paid Luther, Marty says there are only three or four biographies in print in English. Now there are four or five. Marty, an influential church historian now emeritus at the University of Chicago, is himself a Lutheran pastor, and he has produced a portrait of the founder that is deeply and instructively ambivalent. Contra some contemporary Luther scholarship, Marty stays with the conventional portrayal of a distraught and guilt-ridden soul in search of a gracious God. “He makes most sense as a wrestler with God,” Marty writes, “indeed, as a God-obsessed seeker of certainty and assurance in a time of social trauma and of personal anxiety, beginning with his own.”

Luther exulted in his gift for complexifying. Marty writes, “Explain his life story as one will, it makes sense chiefly as one rooted in and focused by what has to be called an obsession with God: God present and God absent, God too near and God too far, the God of wrath and the God of love, God weak and God almighty, God real and God as illusion, God hidden and God revealed.” The Church taught that the sacrament of confession required that the sinner be contrite. “That sounded like a simple idea—to be contrite meant to be sorry for sins, as Luther was—but he rendered it complex.” What if contrition is self-centered and selfish, aimed at securing forgiveness? How could one know if he is truly contrite? Might one not be proud of his contrition? And on and on. The received wisdom criticized such questionings as “scrupulosity,” but Luther—or at least a part of Luther—had declared war on the received wisdom.

Marty emphasizes that Luther was not simply a reformer of ecclesiastical “abuses,” of which there were many. Anticlericalism and rebelliousness against church authority were widespread. In a time of plague and social disruption, many sought the security of a loving God. “Their hungers matched that of Luther, even if they were less gifted than he at speaking up. Attacking the priestly and sacramental system was Luther’s first move; assaulting the official church and questioning its divine authority came next.” Marty’s is a very Protestant Luther who, when the protests of his followers who joined him in rejecting pope and bishops got out of hand, turned to the princes to restore order. In handing the churches over to the protection and care of the princes, Luther expressed an abject dependence upon their power in a manner that Marty describes as “groveling.” And yet the princes were also dependent upon Luther to provide a theological and moral rationale for the powers they were supposed to assume. Marty writes: “If we think of Luther as a specialist in dealing with matters of faith, we will find that he was a generalist when it came to leading in practical matters of church and state. Not a born administrator or theorist of governance, he improvised and often changed course.”

After developing his ideas of the “two kingdoms” as they pertain to temporal and spiritual rule, Luther had a higher estimate than Marty of his achievement. “Not since the time of the apostles,” Luther declared, “have the temporal sword and temporal government been so clearly described or so highly praised as by me.” The temporal sword was fully unsheathed as Luther urged the princes to slash and slaughter without remorse in the Peasants’ War that broke out in 1525. Women were raped and left to die, men were strung up on trees, children perished in the cold winter. Before it was over, as many as 100,000 were killed. Afterwards, Luther would say, “Preachers are the greatest of slayers. For they urge the authorities to execute their office strictly and punish the wicked. In the revolt I slew all the peasants; all their blood is on my head. But I pass it on to our Lord, who commanded me to speak thus.”

The Anabaptists, or re-baptizers, along with the radical iconoclasts, claimed God was commanding them as well, but Luther knew better. They were vermin and flies on the dungheap, mad men and enemies of Christ. Marty is not sparing in pointing up the contradiction between Luther’s claim to understand God’s Word apart from tradition and church authority while denying the same claim made by more radical rebels. Luther’s relative conservatism with respect to liturgy and the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist is attributed to his fear of instability and his dependence on the princes for protection. There was also, despite his sometimes brutish behavior and scatological language, an aesthetic sensibility, as is evident in the joy he took in music and the writing of hymns.

Marty depicts Luther as a man of extremes and contradictions, all in the service of letting God be God. Here he draws on the Luther research of the Methodist Philip Watson, who in Let God be God portrays a Luther who praised the love of God that might even damn him to hell, and declared against Erasmus in The Bondage of the Will that “God himself does evil through those who are evil.” Luther’s extremism was notoriously unleashed as, later in life, he turned against the Jews for refusing to accept Christ. “Luther,” Marty writes, “felt licensed to use degrading imagery: that rabbis made Jews kiss, gobble down, guzzle, and worship the shit they were teaching, along with the Judas’ piss of their biblical interpretations. His apocalyptic vision fired his already out-of-control imagination. He was appointing himself and his princes God’s avengers.”

A great strength of Marty’s account is that, following the lead of his friend Mark U. Edwards, he takes very seriously the fact that Luther was convinced that he was living in the very last days. The end of the world and the final judgment were, he believed, a matter of a few years or even months away. His view of the papacy as the Antichrist plays a large part in this apocalyptic vision. It made little sense to be concerned about Christian unity, whether with Romanists or Zwinglians, or about the long-term consequences of the reordering of civil society when one is living in the last minutes of the last act of history. Luther, it seems, only grudgingly tolerated his friend Philip Melanchthon’s efforts to heal the breach with Rome. It was a waste of time when time was in such short supply.

Martin Marty has written, I believe, a very good book. For a brief summary of Luther’s life and work it is much superior to the popular and almost entirely adulatory Here I Stand by Roland Bainton. Yet there is no denying that Marty’s book is marked by a distinct distaste for Luther the man and, to a lesser degree, Luther the theologian. His conclusion is curious: “Luther was a man of conservative outlook in respect to much church life, but also a person of radical expression who took extreme positions. Through the centuries since his time, many have chosen to seek a safe middle between the ambiguous and often contradictory options available to them in his legacy. Whether many can or will choose to share his boldness in the new millennium will help determine how his influence will find expression in the centuries ahead.”

I say the conclusion is curious because, meaning no offense, Marty is very conspicuously a man of the “safe middle,” as the middle is defined by the mainline Protestantism with which Marty identifies. It is precisely Luther’s “boldness” that Marty typically depicts as extremism. The inference would seem to be that Marty is not at all sure that Luther should have much influence in the centuries ahead. Marty chose as the epigraph for his book lines from a 1940 poem by W. H. Auden on Luther:
“… All works, Great Men, Societies are bad,The Just shall live by faith . . .” he cried in dread.And men and women of the world were glad,Who’d never cared or trembled in their lives.

Auden was right. The Sturm und Drang of Luther was safely domesticated in Lutheranism. And Marty seems to be suggesting that it is just as well; caring and trembling are to be indulged in moderation. Oddly enough, I, as a Catholic who was once a Lutheran, have, I think, a greater respect for Luther the theologian. Few Christian thinkers have so well understood the abyss of despair that is the alternative to the utterly gratuitous love of God in Christ. Without his influence, it is doubtful that sola gratia would be so solidly part of Catholic orthodoxy. If only Luther had not been so reckless, so headstrong, so convinced that he alone was the oracle of God’s truth, so sure that he was living in the very last days and that therefore the shattering of Christian unity was a matter of slight consequence. If only, in short, he had not been the Martin Luther fairly portrayed in Martin Marty’s Martin Luther.

Protestants, Catholics, and Mary

In 1937 a group of Catholic and Protestant theologians, the latter being mainly Reformed and Lutheran, launched an independent effort to explore the possibilities of Christian unity, an effort that met with considerable suspicion at the time. The company came to be known as Le Groupe des Dombes because it usually met at the Cistercian abbey of Nôtre Dame des Dombes, which is about twenty miles north of Lyons, France. The Dombes effort is in some ways similar to the project “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” in this country, which began in 1992. In distinction from the official theological dialogues, both are deliberately independent from ecclesiastical authority, while receiving encouragement from the communions to which the theologians belong. Both speak from and to their communions, but not for their communions. Both serve as sustained scouting expeditions, so to speak, exploring what might be possible in pursuing the unity that Christ wills for his disciples.

After six years of intense study of the subject, the Dombes Group has now issued an important book on Mary in Christian faith and life, Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints (Paulist, 162 pp., $18.95). The book provides a balanced examination of the scriptural, historical, and dogmatic questions in a way that leads to common affirmations without compromise. It is noted that the sixteenth-century Reformers, especially Luther and Zwingli and to a lesser extent Calvin, had a vibrant Marian devotion that was largely lost in the intensification of Protestant-Catholic polemics. Moreover, on the threshold of the modern era, in the seventeenth century, there was a flourishing of “pietism” on both sides. Pietism, or a “religion of the heart,” was a reaction to what was viewed as the excessive intellectualism of regnant theological orthodoxies. Among Catholics, pietism took a decidedly Marian turn. In predictable reaction, Protestant pietism expunged vestiges of Marian devotion as “Romanist.” Of the nineteenth-century definition of the Immaculate Conception the authors write: “On the whole, the new dogma was well received in the Catholic world. Its proclamation served to give Roman Catholicism a more united front. For the churches of the Reformation and for Orthodoxy, however, the dogma became an added stumbling block. It would play a part in removing from Protestant piety the remaining traces of the Marian reflection and piety of the Reformers.”

Mariology Is Christology-

In recent years, the influence of the Second Vatican Council has moved Catholics away from attributing peculiar privileges and dignities to Mary and bound her more closely to the Church as the premier disciple of her Son. All of Mariology is Christology, and any devotion to Mary that is not centered in glorifying Christ is suspect. Today there is a popular revival of diverse forms of Marian devotion and, as the authors note, Catholics “have begun again to frequent controversial places of apparitions, despite the stern warnings of bishops.” However, they add, “At the same time, we must also acknowledge the effort being made at some important places of pilgrimage (Lourdes, La Salette, etc.) to foster in the pilgrims an experience of faith that is authentic and formative. Nowadays, these pilgrimages are privileged places for the exercise of a Catholic pastoral oversight of popular Christianity.”

I can testify to the truth of that. When I first visited Lourdes with the Knights of Malta, I braced myself in advance against letting my perhaps too fastidious theological sensibilities be offended by the excesses of popular piety. I need not have worried. Of course there are the predictable booths peddling every kind of pious kitsch, but even they were considerably less offensive than, say, a convention of the Christian Booksellers Association. At the shrine itself, and in the devotions surrounding the mandatory baths, the principle that Mariology is Christology could not have been more explicit. I had, I must confess, expected miracle-mongering and vulgar superstition, but the piety of the baths is solidly grounded in baptismal regeneration, and the Mass in the underground chapel, with twenty thousand or more people, many of them the sick and dying on gurneys surrounding the altar, some of them attending their final Mass, was marked by a palpable intensity of surrender to the love of God in Christ such as I have seldom experienced. Simply to recall it as I write this quite takes my breath away.

Protestants who become Catholics, or are thinking about becoming Catholics, are prone to put Marian devotion and doctrine to the test of Protestant orthodoxies. While the most theologically austere renditions of Catholic Mariology can usually pass the test, that is, I am convinced, a great mistake. In becoming a Catholic, one should be open to previously unimagined dimensions of Christian piety, far from the least of which is coming to know the Mother of God as the Church’s mother, and one’s own. Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints sometimes succumbs to the aforementioned mistake. But that is perhaps understandable in that this is a dialogue with Christians for whom the Marian dimension of Chris-tian existence has until now been shut off behind a closed and strongly barricaded door.

There are many questions to be taken up between Protestants and Catholics, and some might think the question of Mary somewhat marginal, but I believe the Dombes report is right in saying: “The discussion of the Virgin Mary makes it clear that today she is perhaps the point at which all the underlying confessional differences, especially in soteriology, anthropology, ecclesiology, and hermeneutics, become most clear. These issues are fundamental, if any are, so that when all is said and done, the ecumenical dialogue on the Virgin is a suitable locus for ascertaining our doctrinal disagreements, as it is no less suitable a locus for looking self-critically at our respective ecclesial behaviors in regard to the Mother of the Lord.”

“Unique and Unparalleled”-

If salvation is by God’s grace alone, in what sense did Mary “cooperate” in her salvation, and ours? Is the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary scripturally defensible? If Mary was immaculately conceived, and therefore sinless, did she need a Savior? Does the assumption of Mary mean that she is, in fact, supra-human? If Christ is the one mediator, what place is there for invoking the Blessed Virgin in prayer? These are among the questions typically raised by Protestants, and here they are carefully addressed by Protestants and Catholics together. They are not always resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. But the Dombes statement says, “At the same time, we recognize that these differences do not undermine our communion in one and the same faith in Christ. We are all convinced that the claims concerning the life of the Virgin from its beginning to its end must always be ordered to our understanding of the person of Christ and of the salvation Christ has brought to us.”

With respect to the two dogmas defined by the Catholic Church—the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption (1950)—the authors suggest that all can agree on the following formulation: “The Catholic Church would not make the acceptance of these two dogmas a condition for full communion among the churches. It would only ask the partners with whom it would renew this communion to respect the content of these dogmas and not to judge them contrary to the gospel or to the faith, but to regard them as free and legitimate conclusions flowing from reflection by the Catholic consciousness on the faith and its internal coherence.” Whether such a formulation would, in fact, be acceptable to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is another matter. As I said, the Dombes Group is a scouting expedition exploring what may be possible.

The Group concludes that their statement “is not the fruit of an ‘ecumenical compromise’ that would bring together quite different points of view, but a return to the Mary of the Gospels and the mark of a greater fidelity to the Scriptures.” They quote Karl Barth, probably the most influential Protestant theologian of the past century, who repeatedly suggested that Catholic Mariology is the greatest obstacle to Chris-tian unity. Barth also wrote about Mary: “There is one here who is greater than Abraham, greater than David, and greater than John the Baptist, greater than Paul and greater than the entire Christian Church; we are dealing here with the history of the Mother of God himself. This is a unique and unparalleled event.” Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints is a powerful appeal to Protestants to recover what they have lost, and to Catholics to ensure that their devotion is always ordered to the glory of the Son to whom Mary surrendered all. It is a book that deserves the careful attention of those who yearn for the unity of Christians.

While We’re At It

Philip Jenkins is not swept off his feet by Jedediah Purdy’s new book, Being America, but he allows that Purdy comes up with the occasional aphorism that invites reflection. For instance this: “Forgetfulness keeps a people open to the world.” Purdy writes, “Forgetful America is poisoned against no people, and looks to the future in the expectation that, no matter how the country changes, it will remain itself. We will hardly remember—as we hardly remember now—having been anyone or anything else.” Which inspires Jenkins to this reflection: “This amnesia manifests itself in the recurring myth of national innocence, a state that every generation believes itself to be losing. Depending on the history books you read, ‘America lost its innocence’ with the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, the Depression, at Pearl Harbor, on September 11 . . . and generations yet unborn will probably think that only in their time did the nation lose its primal simplicity. If only they could have shared the simple, naïve faith of the early twenty-first century, a time of plain living and high thinking! A chosen nation may just need a fundamental myth of Eden and the Fall. Purdy’s argument may or may not be entirely convincing, but I for one will never have the same confidence in quoting Santayana’s observation that those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it.”

In October 2003, there was a loud outcry over the anti-Semitic remarks of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister of Malaysia, at the opening of the Islamic Summit Conference. He said that Europeans established the State of Israel “to solve their Jewish problem.” He said, “We Muslims are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of twelve million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” And he said other despicable things, but they are little more than Islamic boilerplate. Overlooked were the substantive things he said about Muslim responsibility for the sorry state of the Islamic nations. For instance: “We are now 1.3 billion strong. We have the biggest oil reserve in the world. We have great wealth. We are not as ignorant as the Jahilliah who embraced Islam. We are familiar with the workings of the world’s economy and finances. We control 50 out of the 180 countries in the world. Our votes can make or break international organizations. Yet we seem more helpless than the small number of Jahilliah converts who accepted the Prophet as their leader. Why? Is it because of Allah’s will or is it because we have interpreted our religion wrongly, or failed to abide by the correct teachings of our religion, or done the wrong things?” And for instance: “There is a feeling of hopelessness among the Muslim countries and their people. They feel that they can do nothing right. They believe that things can only get worse. The Muslim will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews. They will forever be poor, backward, and weak. Some believe, as I have said, this is the Will of Allah, that the proper state of the Muslims is to be poor and oppressed in this world. But is it true that we should do and can do nothing for ourselves? Is it true that 1.3 billion people can exert no power to save themselves from the humiliation and oppression inflicted upon them by a much smaller enemy? Can they only lash back blindly in anger? Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?” Much of the Prime Minister’s speech might have been lifted from Bernard Lewis’ searing critique of Islamic leadership, What Went Wrong? Dr. Mahathir said: “We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well disposed toward us. Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing. We must not antagonize everyone. We must win their hearts and minds. We must win them to our side not by begging for help from them but by the honorable way that we struggle to help ourselves. We must not strengthen the enemy by pushing everyone into their camps through irresponsible and un-Islamic acts. Remember Salah El Din and the way he fought against the so-called Crusaders, King Richard of England in particular. Remember the considerateness of the Prophet to the enemies of Islam. We must do the same. It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge. We must build up our strength in every field, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well administered; must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent, and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient.” What is truly depressing about the speech is not the conventional anti-Semitism but the controlling assumption that Islam is engaged in a “struggle” with the rest of the world, and most particularly with Christendom, and can settle for nothing less than “victory.” Perhaps it was necessary for Dr. Mahathir not to question that assumption in order to get a hearing for the sensible and challenging things he had to say to the assembled Muslim rulers. That is, admittedly, a hopeful interpretation.

This is a welcome occasion to mention the fine series, handsomely produced, Vintage Spiritual Classics, edited by John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne. The series includes, inter alia: The Book of Job, Buddhist Wisdom, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Desert Fathers, The Imitation of Christ, Introduction to the Devout Life, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther, and The Wisdom of John Paul II. The immediate occasion is the preface by Father Joseph Koterski, S.J., of Fordham University to Saint Thomas More. Koterski concentrates on what More meant by conscience. He notes that most people know what they think they know about More from Robert Bolt’s very impressive play and film, A Man for All Seasons. Bolt has More say at one point, “But what matters to me is not whether it’s true or not but that I believe it to be true, or rather, not that I believe it, but that I believe it. I trust I make myself obscure?” A nice line, that, but Koterski says it quite thoroughly obscures More’s understanding of conscience and why he could not assent to Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Here are the actual words of More after he had been found guilty and sentenced to death:

"Seeing that I see ye are determined to condemn me (God knoweth how) I will now in discharge of my conscience speak my mind plainly and freely touching my Indictment and your Statute, withal. And forasmuch as this Indictment is grounded upon an Act of Parliament directly repugnant to the laws of God and His Holy Church, the supreme Government of which, or of any part whereof, may no temporal Prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual pre-eminence by the mouth of our Savior himself, personally present upon earth, only to St. Peter and his successors, bishops of the same See, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law, amongst Christian men, insufficient to charge any Christian man. Koterski offers a brief but persuasive interpretation of More’s Utopia, and ends up by taking issue with another invention of Robert Bolt, who, at the end of his play, has More say, “Finally, it is not a matter of reason but of love.” Not true, says Koterski. “For him it was always a matter of reason: a matter of careful discernment about principles he did not choose or create himself but which he honored as the groundwork for a reasonable decision.” Saint Thomas More with Koterski’s preface is a splendid addition to the Vintage Spiritual Classics. I am thinking about that series these days because I have just agreed to do for it the preface to Kierkegaard’s Training in Christianity. My friend Fr. Koterski has set for me a high standard.

“The often extravagant ravings of anti-American hatred, the media imputations—sometimes the product of incompetence, sometimes of mythomania—the opinionated ill will that puts the United States in an unfavorable light at every turn, can only confirm for Americans the uselessness of consultation. The result is the exact opposite of what is sought. The fallacies of the anti-American bias encourage American unilateralism. The tendentious blindness and systematic hostility of most of the governments that deal with America can only lead to their own weakening, a progressive distancing from reality. And so America’s confused enemies and allies alike, valuing animosity over influence, condemn themselves to impotence—and thus, in effect, strengthen the country they claim to fear.” That is the vigorous summation of Jean-François Revel’s Anti-Americanism (Encounter, 176 pp., $25.95). Revel is, among Parisian intellectuals, a genuinely independent mind in a herd of independent minds whose independence is collectively certified by their unanimous opposition to almost everything American. As the above-cited conclusion indicates, Anti-Americanism is a tract, but the kind of tract that restores the good reputation of political tractarianism.

Here is another big whopper of a book on the Kennedys to add to the pile of big whoppers on that subject. It is not easy to make the case that we really needed this one. Robert Dallek’s recent eight-hundred-plus pages, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, revealed much about JFK’s medical debilities, drug habits, and obsessive womanizing that was not generally known. I am not so sure that we learn much that we didn’t know before from Thomas Maier’s The Kennedys: America’s Emerald Kings (Basic, 676 pp., $29.95). The strength of the book is that it places JFK into five generations of Kennedy history, and concentrates on the specifically Irish Catholic—the two words being inseparable and sometimes indistinguishable—dimensions of the story. Of course, JFK looms largest in the tale, but Joe Sr. runs him a close second. Although he doesn’t put it quite this way, Maier, author of Dr. Spock: An American Life, aims at countering the ways in which the Kennedy myth has been made “respectable” by downplaying the Irish Catholic, presenting JFK’s career as a product of the brightest and the best. From the beginning, Maier convincingly shows, that career had a great deal more to do with the Knights of Columbus and Boston communion breakfasts than with Harvard or the New York Times. New to many will be Joe Sr.’s wheeling and dealing at the Vatican, and the very worldly roles played by some prelates who are depicted, I expect accurately, as being more pols than pastors. Until the bitter end, writes Maier, Cardinal Cushing of Boston was JFK’s “political guardian angel.” When it comes to making sense of it all, Maier seems ambivalent. He writes:

In the fairy-tale world of Camelot politics—not even in the “psycho-biographies” of his detractors—Jack Kennedy rarely appeared to worry about the truth or consequences of sex. The Roman Catholic Church was often an unabashed, albeit unofficial, ally for his ambitions and a compliant keeper of his secrets. To many established Catholics, Camelot was encased in fond memories, part of the climb out of the old ethnic neighborhoods of the past. “It may be hard to remember the impetus that Kennedy gave to a sense of Catholic ‘arrival’ in America,” observed theologian Richard John Neuhaus after so many of JFK’s transgressions were exposed. “Despite subsequent revelations about his private life (news photographers at the time, for example, agreed not to publish pictures of him smoking cigarettes), the Kennedy myth remains the forceful statement of Catholics having made it in America.” But by the 1970s, the Roman Catholic hierarchy was no longer enamored with the Kennedy family or its politics. Many practicing Catholics felt increasingly alienated by the Kennedys, and they, too, seemed disillusioned by the rightward drift of their onetime followers. The Camelot myth remained strong in the minds of Americans, but it became a strangely secular one, no longer endorsed by churchmen such as Cushing but propagated by the media. For Jack’s survivors, particularly his youngest brother, American society’s obsessions with sex cast Camelot in an uncomfortable light, and gradually changed its meaning. Camelot came to signify the glories of a lost era, the blinding light of celebrity and having sex with other celebrities or sycophants. Rather than a high-minded call to public service, as Jacqueline Kennedy said she had intended, Camelot became a parable about excess and its consequences. Yet the book ends with an admiring depiction of the remaining Kennedys making a joint appearance at the 2000 Democratic convention and the wan suggestion that somehow, despite all, Camelot as high-minded call to public service still lives. They are attenuatedly Irish and even more attenuatedly Catholic, but the author seems still to hope for another generation of “emerald kings.” As do enough Americans to provide a promising market for another big, perhaps unnecessary, but interesting book about the Kennedys.

Yale professor David Gelernter thinks it speaks well of our society that, when we have condemned a criminal to death, we “are in no hurry to [kill him], and will search on and on for a convincing reason not to.” Not so with the severely brain damaged, those in a “vegetative” state. Not so with Terri Schiavo, whose husband wanted her dead and was only saved for a time by Governor Jeb Bush’s calling of a special session of the legislature to give him authority to intervene. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Gelernter says: “What happens to the next Mrs. Schiavo? And the next plus a hundred or a thousand? How much attention will the public and the legislature be able to muster for this sort of thing over the years? The war against Judeo-Christian morality is a war of attrition. Time is on the instigators’ side. They have all the patience in the world, and all the patients. If this one lives, there is always the next. After all, it’s the principle of the thing.” The mark of civilization, says Gelernter, is the shortening of the list of reasons that justify taking human life. But now footnotes are being added to the list. “Thoughtful people have argued: once you start footnoting innocent human life, you are in trouble. Innocent life must not be taken . . . unless (here come the footnotes) the subject is too small, sick, or depressed to complain. One footnote, people have argued, and the jig is up; in the long run the accumulating footnotes will strangle humane society like algae choking a pond. Who would have believed when the Supreme Court legalized abortion that, one generation later, only one, America would have come to this? Mrs. Schiavo’s parents wanting her to live, pleading for her to live, the state saying no, and a meeting of the legislature required to pry the executioner’s fingers from the victim’s throat? I would never have made such an argument when the abortion decision came down, and I would never have believed it. I still can’t believe it. Is this America? Do I wake or sleep?” He wakes, as many others are awakening. Late, to be sure. But, please God, not too late to turn us toward becoming a culture of life.

I took mainly favorable notice of Father Andrew Greeley’s Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium, in part because it was so contentiously against the grain of what “everybody knows” about the dismal decline of Christianity in Europe, meaning mainly Western Europe. Our aforementioned friend Philip Jenkins, writing in Books & Culture, is less patient with Greeley’s contrarianism: “The issue of methodology is critical. Greeley has a thorough (if not Gradgrindian) commitment to a positivist quantitative approach, and if this leads to conclusions that seem frankly silly, then the fault must lie in public perceptions, not in the statistics. The introduction offers a gorgeously Greeleyan piece of rhetoric: ‘Data from probability samples do not make for easy cocktail party chatter, but they are a lot more reliable than the repetition of clichés about “what everybody knows.” Well, clichés are never worth defending, and I would be the last to reaffirm the truthfulness of ‘what everybody knows.’ But the argument here is that on the one side, we have Andrew Greeley with his hard statistics, and on the other we find only feather-brained dilettantes at their cocktail parties. It really is not that simple.” Jenkins thinks there is another Greeley who could have greatly improved this book that “represents Greeley the social scientist to the near exclusion of Greeley the religious and cultural commentator, whose book The Catholic Imagination was such a delight. Readers looking for that kind of book must turn instead to Colm Tóibín’s superb travelogue The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1994). Sometimes the journalists and novelists can tell us quite as much about social realities as the number-crunchers.” Maybe we should have asked Greeley the journalist and novelist—he is also both—to review the Greeley number-cruncher’s book.

“To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you have to draw large and startling figures.” That wisdom of Flannery O’Connor is quoted by Gregory Wolfe, editor of the admirable publication Image, which bills itself as “a journal of the arts and religion.” He goes on to suggest that, in our postmodern times, the Christian writer is more likely to be a whisperer than shouter, and he thinks that good. Many deplore today’s absence of boldly and explicitly Christian writers, but Wolfe writes that “those critics who champion earlier cultural manifestations of muscular Christianity start to sound a bit like schoolyard bullies rather than enlightened intellectuals.” I don’t know whether it’s right to say that Auden, O’Connor, or Graham Greene (figures Wolfe mentions) espoused “muscular Christianity,” and I cannot help but wonder by whose definition of enlightenment Christians should aspire to being enlightened intellectuals. Wolfe writes, “Genuine doubt is not weakness but strength, a willingness to wrestle with the angel.” I doubt therefore I am strong? Perhaps I don’t understand what he means by genuine doubt, but surely it is faith, not doubt, that wrestles with the angel. “The decline-and-fall critics are so sure of themselves,” says Wolfe, “that they don’t bother to carefully sift what’s out there. If they did, they’d find more kinship between the whisperers and the shouters than they have imagined.” No doubt. “Artists of faith may work on smaller canvases today,” he concludes, “but if they can create exquisite miniatures, then they have done their bit to redeem the time.” To be sure, we must all try to do our bit, but I cannot silence the whispering suspicion that, with respect to the dearth of bold and imaginative Christian writing, Gregory Wolfe should more strongly doubt false comforts.

It is not simply that the English translations in the Mass tend toward banality. The problem goes back to the hurried putting together of the Paul VI Missal in Latin following the Second Vatican Council. That is the argument of “Theological Principles that Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal” by Lauren Pristas (The Thomist, 67, 2003). Researching the statements of those in charge of the redaction, Pristas finds that they were quite explicit about their intention to adapt ancient texts to “the modern mind.” Sin and damnation are downplayed, and the distinctions between heaven and earth, the profane and the sacred, God’s grace and our efforts tend to be fudged. “The traditional [Latin] orations are highly sophisticated and stunningly concise literary compositions that overflow with surplus of meaning—connotation far outstripping denotation,” Pristas writes. The redactors, however, believed that prayers should be “submissive to the principles required for a good homily: to have something to say, to know how to say it, and to stop after it has been said.” It is doubtful that most of the new prayers rise even to the level of a good homily. Far from overflowing with a surplus of meaning, upon careful examination they display a deficit of meaning. A good many of the prayers in the Mass can be adequately summarized by the petition, “Help us to be the really nice people we are.” By so revising the prayers from all ages, Pristas writes, “it may be the case that nearly all the texts of our missal reflect the strengths and weaknesses, the insights and biases, the achievements and limitations of but one age, our own. . . . If this is indeed so, then Catholics of today, in spite of the access made possible by vernacular celebrations, have far less liturgical exposure to the wisdom of our past and the wondrous diversity of Catholic experience and tradition than did the Catholics of earlier generations.” True, the Mass was then said in Latin but the people followed it in missals containing a reasonably accurate translation of the Latin. In the rush to the vernacular, the redaction deprived people of the texts in both Latin and English. In Rome, the Congregation for Divine Worship is engaged in a painstaking reappraisal of what happened to the texts in the Paul VI Missal. A remedy for the mischief described by Lauren Pristas may be on its way. This time a little hurry might not hurt.

John Leo calls it “the rapid refurbishing of appalling people,” and he has more than a point. In 1987, Joel Steinberg of New York City beat to death his illegally adopted six-year-old daughter. Though still in jail, he has parlayed his notoriety into a job with a cable TV show. Jayson Blair fabricated stories for the New York Times, and has a six-figure advance for a book telling how a “racist” press made him do it. Stephen Glass fabricated stories for the New Republic and other publications, which earned him a movie sale and big book contract, as well as a job writing for Rolling Stone, for which he wrote fiction as fact. Roman Polanski drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl, and then skipped the country, which did not prevent him from getting last year’s Oscar for best director. Marv Albert’s career was presumably shattered by a messy sex scandal, but a little more than a year later he was hired as host of MSG Sports Desk. And then there is Al Sharpton, co-perpetrator of the Tawana Brawley rape hoax, leader of an agitation against a Jewish store owner in which he joined with others in screaming “bloodsucking Jews” and “Jew bastards,” which agitation ended with three people shot and seven dead in a fire set by a protestor. Now he is a “civil rights leader” who is addressed as “the Rev. Sharpton” in national debates with other aspirants for the presidency of the United States. Such things are to be expected, writes Leo, “in a culture with no higher standard than non-judgmentalism.” Religious leaders must take a large part of the responsibility for the debasement of the Christian understanding of forgiveness into non-judgmentalism. In the entertainment and political worlds—the two being not easily distinguishable—we are witnessing the cultural consequences of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” There is another interesting note, however, in Leo’s worthy jeremiad. The Hall of Fame refuses to honor two great but tainted players, Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Leo asks, “Is raping a child less serious than betting on baseball or throwing a World Series?” An interesting question, but the Hall of Fame is about more than fame. It is about honest achievement and, as pitched to young people, about something like virtue, the latter requiring at least the absence of a blatant defiance of virtue. When watching a ball game, one has the heartening thought that there is still an activity in which it is hard to fake it. Along with the depressing thought that there are so many others in which fakery and even viciousness is the road to celebrity. Leo is undoubtedly right in urging serious people to fight “the rapid refurbishing of appalling people.”

The death of Neil Postman, at age seventy-two, should not go unremarked. His 1985 critique of a television culture, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, is an indispensable reference for anyone alert to what we are doing to ourselves. Postman, who taught at New York University, did not call himself a Luddite, but wasn’t terribly upset if others did. On the fashion of putting computers in classrooms, he wrote, “I would bar educators from talking about technical improvements until they have disclosed their reasons for offering an education in the first place. And such reasons are to be found in places where machines do not dwell.” In The Disappearance of Childhood (1982) he argued that television was destroying the distance between childhood and adulthood, since young and old are both dependent on the same source of information and entertainment. Finally, this from the 1985 book: “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” He did not call himself a prophet, and did not like it when others did, but many do, for understandable reasons.

John Wilson began the series in 2000, and now we have The Best Christian Writing 2004 (Jossey-Bass, 216 pp., $15.95 paper). It includes three articles from FT: Jody Bottum’s “Dakota Christmas,” Philip Jenkins’ “A New Religious America,” and Wilfred McClay’s “The Continuing Irony of American History.” All three are deserving of the honor, although I might have included at least ten others that we published in the past year. But then, John Wilson makes the editorial calls, and it is important to be reminded that fine writing is not limited to FT. Again this year, there are more articles from FT than from any other publication, including Books & Culture, which is no slouch when it comes to fine writing, and of which John Wilson is editor. One might infer that he is a more disinterested judge than I.

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.” These words of Psalm 130 have puzzled many. If God is so ready to forgive, it is thought, then we need not fear Him. On the contrary: if there is no forgiveness, if we are indelibly marked by and held accountable for our iniquities, our situation is hopeless, we cannot stand. And if our situation is hopeless, forget about God. In some Christian traditions, a very sharp distinction is made between law and gospel. In this view, the law is what God commands and the gospel is God’s forgiveness for our failing to obey his commands. The law is bad news, the gospel is good news. The bad news comes first, and then comes the good news. But Psalm 130 suggests a different sequence. Only when we know our situation is not hopeless, when we know there is forgiveness, dare we face up to our iniquities. Because we know there is forgiveness, we are able to confess our sins. Last month I commented on the admirable action of the Southern Baptist Convention in publicly repudiating its pro-abortion resolutions of many years ago, and asking the forgiveness of God and of the minority who then held fast to the pro-life position. Now the bishops of the Catholic Church in Africa, meeting on Senegal’s notorious Goree Island where slaves were shipped off to the New World, have held a ceremony of repentance and forgiveness for the role of Africans in the slave trade. This is part of the “purification of memories” for which John Paul II has called so persistently. The report of the bishops says, “The trade of Blacks is one of the most odious acts . . . of human history, be it for its dimensions or the human disasters it caused, or because of the mentalities and behaviors that allowed them. . . . Among these mentalities and behaviors we, for our part, include in the first place the mentalities and behaviors of ourselves, Blacks.” I am not aware of any similar statement made by Africans. To be sure, the complicity of Africans in the trans-Atlantic slave trade came about through white traffickers meeting a white demand for slaves. But the trade could not have been sustained without the cooperation of “Africans who sold their brothers,” as Archbishop Theodore Sarr of Senegal said. The action on the Island of Goree underscores our human solidarity in both sin and grace. And it underscores the truth that reconciliation begins with honesty, and honesty is made possible by the promise of forgiveness.

Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, is to be credited for having noted the importance of religion in American life. But then there is this: “One of the most poisonous divides is the one between intellectual and religious America.” Mr. Kristof quickly adds, “I’m not denigrating anyone’s beliefs.” Of course not. But he’s worried that, for instance, over 90 percent of Americans believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. He cites “the great Yale historian and theologian” Jaroslav Pelikan who says, correctly, that early writings such as the Gospel of Mark and the letter to the Galatians do not mention the virgin birth. Kristof writes, “But mostly, I’m troubled by the way the great intellectual traditions of Catholic and Protestant churches alike are withering, leaving the scholarly and religious worlds increasingly antagonistic. . . . The heart is a wonderful organ, but so is the brain.” Representing the great intellectual tradition, we are given to understand, is his grandfather, “a devout and active Presbyterian elder who nonetheless believed firmly in evolution and regarded the virgin birth as a pious legend.” It would likely surprise Mr. Kristof that Jaroslav Pelikan, formerly a Lutheran and now Orthodox, firmly believes in the virgin birth. As did and do almost all of the great figures in the Christian intellectual tradition, Mr. Kristof’s grandfather apparently excepted. Mr. Kristof undoubtedly means well, but one may be permitted to suggest that one of the unhappiest divides in American life is between thoughtful Christians and pundits who are embarrassingly ignorant about the Christian intellectual tradition.

Here’s another “Volume 1, Number 1.” It is Nova et Vetera (from the new and the old that Jesus says the scribe will bring out of his treasures), now issued semi-annually in big (about 250 pages) issues, and aiming to become a quarterly. Actually, it was started with a French edition in 1926 but the nova here is its appearance in English. Published under the auspices of Ave Maria College in Michigan, the focus is on matters Thomistic—theological, philosophical, and moral. For more information, contact

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned smoking in bars, restaurants, and even private clubs. In self-righteous enthusiasm over his having stopped smoking, he declares that the ban on secondhand smoke will save “literally tens of thousands of lives.” Allegedly tough, independent, don’t-push-me-around New Yorkers have, for the most part, supinely acquiesced. Facts seem not to matter. In the May 17 issue of the British Medical Journal, two American epidemiologists, James Enstrom of UCLA and Geoffrey Kabat of the State University of New York, report on a massive study of 35,561 smokers and their nonsmoking spouses over forty years. They report that secondhand smoke might lead to a small increase in the risk of lung cancer, but that the commonly claimed 30 percent increase in the risk of heart disease—the purported cause of almost all the deaths attributed to secondhand smoke—is not supported by the evidence. I do not expect that the ban imposed by Mayor “Doomsberg,” who is again driving the city into insolvency, will be rescinded any time soon. But it should not go unprotested. It is another abandonment of freedom, common sense, and civilized accommodation perpetrated by those who think themselves anointed to run other people’s lives. Please note that I do not, as is now common in comments by those who agree, stipulate that I am a nonsmoker. I intend to continue enjoying a cigar where I am permitted to do so. It is a very curious idea that only those who do not participate in a pleasant and innocent activity are entitled to protest its being outlawed.

So what country in the world has the fastest growing Jewish population? Most people would not guess that it is Germany, but so it is. Before World War II, there were a half million Jews in Germany; by the end of the war 15,000 were left. In 1990 there were 33,000 and the number today is a little over 200,000. Most are immigrants from what was the evil empire to the East, although there are significant numbers from other countries, including Israel. Julius H. Schoeps, who heads the Moses Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam, says, “The biblical paradigm for this rebirth was the return of Jews to Israel,” referring to the end of the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century b.c. The idea of Germany as the promised land is counterintuitive, but there you have it. Before the war, German Jews were thoroughly assimilated and unprepared for a regime that would treat them as an alien race. Schoeps says, “The intellectual heritage of German Jews included Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Heinrich Heine, while this new Jewish community is at home with Tolstoy and Gogol.” Asked what this means for the next generation, he says, “Probably Goethe, Schiller, and Heine, plus Gogol and Tolstoy—not a bad prospect, don’t you think?” He’s right about that, although one may hope they have also taken Dostoevsky to heart. He best understood the tangled ways of evil, death, resurrection, and the fragility of history.

Feminist twistings and turnings (continued). It was not long ago—indeed it continues today—that feminist writers celebrated the neglected heroines of the Bible. The God of Abraham became “the God of Abraham and Sarah,” and so forth. Such celebrations, while sometimes misguided, had their commendable aspects. The world does not have enough heroes and heroines, and none should be neglected. The latest turn, however, is reflected in Gale Yee’s Poor Banished Children of Eve: Women as Evil in the Hebrew Bible, from Fortress Press. The Bible, says Yee, is full of “wicked women” and she offers a “startling explanation” of why that is so. “These women function as ‘sexual metaphors’ and ‘symbolic alibis’ for the conflicts and blunders of the male actors who held socio-economic, religious, and political power.” Wouldn’t you know it. Gender conflicts, she says, might be understood as “deflected forms of class conflict.” Through all the twistings and turnings is the abiding presence of Karl Marx, the one dead, white, European male who gets a pass.

A New York Times story refers to the war in Sudan as a “pet cause of many American religious conservatives.” Imagine, writes Allen Hertzke, political scientist at the University of Oklahoma, the Times describing the plight of Soviet Jewry as a “pet cause” of American Jews or apartheid in South Africa as a “pet cause” of African Americans. For twenty years, the civil war in Sudan has killed two million people, displaced five million, and revived the slave trade. The war is between the Islamic regime in Khartoum and the mainly Christian south of Sudan. Under intense pressure from Christian human rights groups in this country, a pact has recently been signed that may end the war. One might think that would be headline news, but it is buried in the back pages, if it is reported at all. After all, it is only a pet cause of religious conservatives.

“Will the Irish of the twenty-first century in their daily practice abandon that true faith and that true Church their ancestors died for? Will American materialism and gross pagan immorality, disguised as personal autonomy and moral neutrality, finally succeed and win the hearts of the Irish, where Oliver Cromwell and Great Britain failed?” That’s Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Illinois, speaking at an outdoor Mass to about a thousand people gathered by the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Citing abortion, general decadence, and relentless attacks on Catholicism, Jenky asked, “Why do we as Catholics not stand up and fight and defend our faith? What will it take to finally get us mad?” The congregation did stand up with a lengthy ovation. One cannot resist an observation on Oliver Cromwell playing Peoria. More seriously, while some Catholics will criticize the bishop’s “demagoguery,” pointing out the importance of dialoguing with the culture, I am inclined to the view that he was helpfully specifying the conditions of respect and self-respect that make authentic dialogue possible.

Father Richard S. Vosko has played a prominent role in the renovation of numerous Catholic churches. Critics say he is a perpetrator of the stripping of the altars, and refer to his renovations as wreckovations. He explains his approach in the November 3, 2003 issue of America, “Building and Renovating Places of Worship.” He speaks of “the emerging church,” and repeatedly of the “evolving church” that is “a church in the process of redefining itself.” He fears a return to “the styles of preconciliar churches,” and urges readers to “embrace the stimulating, challenging, and evolving self-image of the church today.” He says the Church as a sacrament of unity means that pro-lifers and pro-choicers, gays and straights, married and divorced are “breathing in the word of God together” and “all are sharing in the holy Eucharist together.” And then there is this: “The sacrament of unity is defined less by details and more by the mystery of the religious phenomenon—the assembly of a diverse people sustaining one another because of their undying belief in a loyal, ever-present God.” That nicely encapsulates a thoroughly anthropocentric understanding of the Church and her worship. We are the mystery. Church and liturgy are defined by the very human event, by “the religious phenomenon” of our assembled diversity. It is not Christ sustaining us, but we sustaining one another. And we do that because we believe in a loyal God. The original meaning of “loyal” is faithful allegiance to a higher sovereignty. In this connection, it would seem to suggest that God is loyal to the higher sovereignty of us, the individual and collective Self that is the mystery of the religious phenomenon by which the sacrament is effected. Wading through the muddled effusions of Fr. Vosko’s article, it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the evolving church and the defining sacramental reality is the worship of our wondrously diverse selves. His prescriptions for building and renovating places of worship, it logically follows, are perfectly attuned to the Church of Us. That the Catholic Church still thinks of herself as the Church of Jesus Christ, one is given to understand, is a lamentable consequence of our failing to embrace “the stimulating, challenging, and evolving self-image of the church today.” What Fr. Vosko proposes sounds very much like a worship space for the cult of communal narcissism. I have told the story before of Avery Cardinal Dulles being in a church when he saw a banner declaring, “God Is Other People.” He sorely wished that he had a magic marker with him so that he could insert a very prominent comma after “Other.”

Archbishop Sean O’Malley has been generally well received in Boston. Even by the deeply anti-Catholic Boston Globe, whose anti-Catholicism, it should be remembered, goes back to the nineteenth century, long before it was taken over by the New York Times. Part of the reception can be attributed to the way in which his predecessor, Bernard Cardinal Law, was so viciously treated by the media, working hand in glove with hungry lawyers. By contrast with the depiction of Law, almost anybody would look good, or at least much better. But O’Malley’s personal manner is part of the favorable reviews thus far, including his wearing of his simple Franciscan habit. Then there is his decision not to live in the archiepiscopal residence but in the simpler rectory near the cathedral. I have heard the criticism that the decision is a piece of humbler-than-thou showboating, but I don’t think so. As O’Malley has explained, there is a symbolic importance in the bishop being near his cathedral. He is right, too, when he says that the rather grand residence of the archbishop was important when immigrant Catholics felt the need to demonstrate that they had really arrived in America. That was a long time ago. Now Boston Catholics, and Catholics elsewhere, are, if anything, too much at home in America. The Archbishop’s more modest quarters can serve as a countersign to prevailing comfort and affluence. This is a sticky point with some bishops. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre (Long Island, New York) took a media shellacking when, upon his arrival, he built a handsome conference and dining area in his residence. Pundits amused themselves by referring to him as, among other things, “Mansion Murphy.” Bishops need a place where they can meet and offer hospitality, but the lesson is that it’s probably best these days not to locate it in their personal residence. The late John Cardinal O’Connor used to voice his guilt feelings about living in the fine residence behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We disagreed about that. His actual living quarters on the top floor were very modest, and the rest of the house was composed mainly of office space and reception areas. Anyway, the residence is physically part of the cathedral, where the archbishop should be. Then there is Francis Cardinal George of Chicago. A while back he let it be known that he would like to sell the big, rambling, dysfunctional archiepiscopal mansion and move into simpler quarters. You would think he might have been hailed for giving up one of the more conspicuous trappings of high office. On the contrary, there was a public hullabaloo against his abandoning a landmark. “The Cardinal Archbishop has always lived there. It’s part of Chicago’s identity.” And so forth. When it comes to where and how bishops should live, it sometimes seems they can’t win for losing.

European anti-Americanism has come in for a great deal of deserved attention this past year. It must be admitted that also some of the statements issuing from the Vatican in the period leading up to regime change in Iraq, and since, smack of vulgar anti-Americanism. That does not include the statements of the Pope. I say that not only because I do not wish to criticize the Pope, which is also true, but because his purpose is so manifestly clear: to avoid war, to be sure, but also to avoid any suggestion that the papacy is the leader of those whom Osama bin Laden calls “the Crusaders” in an open-ended clash of civilizations with Islam. In fact, not since Columbus set sail has a pope had such a hopeful view of America as does John Paul II. This, too, is well documented in George Weigel’s magnificent biography, Witness to Hope. This was among the subjects of conversation at dinner the other evening with Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete and a few young people associated with Communion and Liberation. CL, as it is called, is a vibrant renewal movement founded many years ago in Italy by Father Luigi Giussani (now age eighty-one) and currently growing around the world, and not least in the U.S. Msgr. Albacete, a native of Puerto Rico and the movement’s national chaplain, is a remarkable priest to whom the word “colorful” is inevitably attached. Rotund to the point of Falstaf-fian, he wears his immense theological learning lightly, and wherever he goes he creates a convivium of spiritual exploration that young people find irresistible. (See the FT notice of his God at the Ritz in January 2003). But putting Msgr. Albacete aside, which is not easy, the conversation turned to Fr. Giussani’s view of America as “providentially” chosen for a time such as this. World predominance and Christian vitality combine to make America the heir to Europe as Europe was once heir to Jerusalem and Athens. The vision is not unlike that proposed in historian Christopher Dawson’s schema of “the ages of the Church.” And it is not unlike the view of many evangelical Protestants that America is the base for the relaunching of world evangelization, except that Fr. Giussani and CL are Catholic to the core. A recent issue of CL’s monthly magazine, Traces, sympathetically discusses philosopher Richard Rorty’s utopian dream, inspired by the unbridled optimism of Dewey and Whitman, of a future infinitely open to human improvement. There is something so attractively American about Rorty, the author says, but his dream is purchased at the price of “the negation of reality as a given.” Reality is a limit, but in the incarnational entrance of the Divine into the limited, reality is also the opening to the infinite. “Reality responds.” This theme of human desiring and divine response is at the heart of the distinctive spirituality of CL. It is a movement for what today are called religious “seekers,” but for seekers who want to find. Msgr. Albacete describes CL as “Opus Dei for bad Catholics.” Each summer in Rimini, in Northern Italy by the Adriatic Sea, hundreds of thousands of young people are gathered by CL in a raucously intense carnival of seeking and finding. The movement is strongly supported by John Paul II, and my hunch is that Americans are just beginning to hear about a force for renewal that, not incidentally, holds the promise of renewing also our sense of providentially appointed responsibility as Americans.

I don’t know how interested you are in onomastics. (For those who aren’t interested at all, onomastics is the study of names and their origins.) But, in response to my annual report on how boys and girls are being named, Father Paul Mankowski, who teaches in Rome and is interested in and knowledgeable about at least a dozen fields I’ve never heard of, had this to say: “On names for children. You write that ‘girls get the glitzy and frivolous names while boys are named more seriously, usually for biblical figures.’ There is a sense in which this reflects the biblical tradition itself. Almost without exception, male Israelites had names which express some theological content: ‘My God is Justice’ ‘YHWH is Lord,’ etc. And more often than not, Israelite women were named for spices, jewels, and cute animals: ‘heifer’ (Leah), ‘ewe’ (Rachel), ‘honeybee’ (Deborah = Melissa in Greek), ‘gazelle’ (Tabitha)—or they had names of endearment: ‘my sweetness’ (Naomi), ‘my delight is in her’ (Hepzibah), ‘princess’ (Sarah). There’s a sense in which it would seem that different emotions and purposes are to the fore in naming baby boys and baby girls, though after the first century it seems both Christians and Jews began to name babies of both sexes after biblical or religious figures.” So I suppose that, at least with respect to the names of girls, we may be witnessing a return to biblical, or at least Old Testament, practice.

I, too, have heard this attributed to W. H. Auden: “We are here on earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don’t know.” Nigel Rees, the ever helpful quote sleuth, traces it back to Vivian Foster, a British music hall performer famous for his humorous imitations of Anglican clergy, who said it when Auden was only about fifteen years old. So that should settle that. Also from Mr. Rees’s oft-mentioned—at least oft-mentioned here—The “Quote . . . Unquote” Newsletter comes this, apropos my recent reflection on wild moralists in the animal kingdom. The author is William Plomer.

In the vegetarian guesthouse
All was frolic, feast, and fun;Eager voices were enquiring,
“Are the nettle cutlets done?”
Peals of vegetarian laughter,
Husky, wholesome, wholemeal bread;
Will the evening finish with a
Rush of cocoa to the head?

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