Saturday, November 28, 2009
Real Pilgrims Sought Purity, Not Tolerance or Diversity
As American families sit down to their traditional Thanksgiving feasts they will naturally recall the familiar story of the Pilgrims taught to every school kid and, in the process, distort the true character of the nation’s religious heritage.
Most children learn that the Mayflower settlers came to the New World to escape persecution and to establish religious freedom. But the early colonists actually pursued purity, not tolerance and sought to build fervent, faith-based utopias, not secular regimes that consigned religion to a secondary role. The distinctive circumstances that allowed these fiery believers of varied denominations to cooperate in the founding of a new nation help to explain America’s contradictory religious traditions – as simultaneously the most devoutly Christian society in the western world, and the country most accommodating to every shade of exotic belief and practice.
Concerning the Pilgrims who celebrated the First Thanksgiving in 1621, they didn’t travel directly from their English homes to the “hideous and desolate wilderness” of Massachusetts. They sailed the Atlantic only after living for twelve years in flourishing communities in Holland—the most tolerant and religiously diverse nation of Europe. They left the Netherlands not because that nation imposed too many religious restrictions but because the Dutch honored too few. The pluralism they found in Amsterdam and Leyden horrified the Pilgrims. They were separatists who considered themselves “a people apart” and who preferred isolation on a distant shore that facilitated the building of a unified, disciplined, strictly devout commonwealth, not some wide-open sanctuary for believers of every stripe. The famous Mayflower Compact defined their purpose explicitly as “the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith…”
The like-minded Puritans who followed them (and whose much larger settlement of Massachusetts Bay annexed the Pilgrims’ Plymouth in 1691) showed similar determination to build a model of single-minded religious rigor. The leaders of this idealistic venture were in no sense the victims of oppression back home, but rather counted as wealthy and influential gentleman who wielded considerable political influence. Even after their fellow Puritans won total power (and executed a king in 1649) the Massachusetts colonists chose to remain in their “city upon a hill” in the New World rather than to return to the compromises and complications necessitated by the fractious politics of England. The famous shipboard sermon by which Governor John Winthrop inspired his flock for the challenges of their “errand into the wilderness” declared that “when God gives a special commission he looks to have it strictly observed in every article….to serve the Lord and work out our salvation under the power and purity of his holy ordinances.”
Beyond the four New England colonies (which each began as energetic theocracies representing various strands of Puritanism), other major settlements took shape according to the dreams and dictates of other denominations. William Penn and his fellow Quakers followed their “inner light” to establish Pennsylvania as a “holy experiment,” while the aristocratic Calvert family set up Maryland as a refuge and a base of operations for devout British Catholics. Even the less explicitly religious colonies, where early settlers seemed to care more about finding gold than finding God, received royal charters that declared their underlying mission of spreading the faith. Virginia’s charter described a mandate for the “propagating of Christian Religion as such People as yet live in Darkness.” At the first landing of the original Jamestown expedition (April 26, 1607), Captain Christopher Newport took it upon himself to erect the colony’s first structure: a large cross at Cape Henry to mark their arrival.
How, then, did these enthusiastic true believers with their often uncompromising standards ever manage to join together in a new nation in 1776 – a nation that has been characterized ever since by a religious diversity and inter-denominational cooperation altogether unprecedented in human history?
The Revolutionary struggle forced their hand, with soldiers from more than a dozen Christian traditions and sects (as well as a disproportionate representation of the colonies’ tiny Jewish minority) fighting side by side in the Continental Army. When General Washington ordered “divine services” to build morale among his weary troops, he made some effort to avoid excluding New England Congregationalists or Virginia Baptists or Carolina Methodists or, for that matter, the random Catholic or Mennonite. In the eight year struggle, Massachusetts soldiers served willingly under the brilliant Quaker General Nathanael Greene – even though their Puritan forebears might have been among those who order the occasional hanging of his co-religionists in the previous century.
Violent struggles had broken out from time to time in the past among various faith communities—with Puritans challenging Catholics for control of Maryland, for instance, and fighting the bloody Battle of the Severn in 1655. But for the most part the wide open spaces of the new continent allowed even the most impassioned theological enthusiasts to build their own spheres of influence without confronting or oppressing their potential rivals in far flung neighboring settlements. The constant threat of Indian violence and the even more dire menace of British suppression made some level of mutual respect a practical necessity, even for localities that bitterly disagreed.
The First Amendment to the Constitution ratified this arrangement of uncontested local authority with its careful wording: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” The Constitutional formulation limited the power of the federal government to impose a single national faith, and to provoke the dangerous battles accompanying such an attempt, but did nothing in the eyes of the zealous founders to interfere with the established churches (that received direct government funding and endorsement) on the state level. The esteemed liberal scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School writes: “A growing body of evidence suggests that the Framers principally intended the Establishment of Religion Clause to perform two functions: two protect state religious establishments from national displacement, and to prevent the national government from aiding some, but not all, religions.” With this understanding in mind, religious voting restrictions (limiting the franchise to Trinitarian Protestant Christians, for instance) continued in several states for more than forty years under the Constitution.
The Pilgrims and their spiritual descendants never had to retreat from religious fervor or Biblical demands to join the new Republic, thanks to the continued existence of more or less autonomous, localized refuges and enclaves. No one can suggest that our Founders embraced secularism or relativism, but they did come to accept the notion of separate faith communities following their own distinctive rules while managing to live side-by-side and to cooperate where necessary.
Thanksgiving in that sense doesn’t celebrate religious freedom, but rather coexistence. We remain a nation of impassioned, fiercely committed, openly competing believers who have nonetheless established a long tradition of letting other faith communities go their own way. We can be pious and uncompromising at our own Thanksgiving tables, without menacing, or even questioning the very different proceedings in the home next door. The limitless boundaries and vast empty land of the fresh continent, plus the challenges of a long Revolutionary struggle, gave the faith-filled fanatics of the founding the chance for a freedom more profound than mere religious tolerance: the right, in their own communities, to be left alone.
So Much for Transcending Race
Given how high the hopes were for Barack Obama -- and how many of those hopes were pinned on the candidate's supposed ability to bridge America's racial divide -- it is sobering to analyze this linked Gallup survey.
The President's approval has slid to 39% among whites; the only reason it remains in the high 40's overall is because he enjoys a 73% approval among non-whites (and even higher, understandably, in the African American community alone). Apparently, the racial divide remains with us for the foreseeable future -- perhaps, ironically, worse than ever, to the extent that African Americans perceive any unfairness in the critiques of the President that they attribute, rightly or wrongly, to his race.
But even if the President has proved unable to transcend race, he has done a great favor for America, especially its young, albeit unwittingly. Every generation must be reminded anew about how precious freedom is, and how insidiously government can begin to take over -- and how destructive (to our liberties, to our economy, to our culture, even) an overweening, hyperactive, steroidal government can be.
Jimmy Carter taught an earlier generation about the disaster that lefty economics and soft foreign policy creates. Perhaps it may be that Barack Obama and his "Big Government knows best" agenda is doing the same thing. And if that's the case, I'm thankful -- for that and so much more.
Why Won’t the Mainstream Media Cover the ACORN Story?
It’s blindingly obvious why corrupt leftist lawmakers including House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and his subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) won’t investigate their good friends at ACORN, but as evidence continues to mount of ACORN’s habitual, potentially criminal wrongdoing, why does the mainstream media refuse to investigate a scandal that “could be as historically significant as Watergate“?
Big Media seems to be taking cues from what NewsReal blogger Kathy Shaidle calls the George Soros Steno Pool at Media Matters for America. Throughout the continuing revelations about ACORN, Media Matters has steadfastly defended its allies at ACORN. One has to wonder if ACORN is keeping Media Matters on retainer and if so how big the regular checks must be.
Soon after the first few hidden-camera videos of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles surfaced in September showing the public ACORN’s barely concealed criminal proclivities, John V. Santore of Media Matters launched a sleaze attack against O’Keefe, Giles, and their online publisher, Andrew Breitbart. Because O’Keefe, Giles, and Breitbart are conservatives there is no way they could be honest reporters of facts, implied Santore. Giles even attended events at the National Journalism Center, he noted. Heavens! Of course ideological disqualification never applies to left-of-center media outlets.
Santore also focused on the journalistic ethics involved in the undercover video sting operation, arguing that because the reporters had an animus against ACORN they couldn’t be trusted. Tell that to the award-winning crusading journalists throughout American history who have helped to bust up (other) crime gangs and expose malfeasance everywhere. Having an opinion or a desire to do the right thing isn’t a requirement to be a reporter nor does it disqualify a person from being a reporter.
Appropriately, on his TV show Glenn Beck observed: "The New York Times wonders why they are losing readers. It’s because reading their paper is like entering a time machine or reading the news in your rearview mirror. They didn’t even bother to jump on the ACORN story, which came complete with corruption, hookers and pimps."
The ACORN scandal is a great story yet apart from Fox News and a few other media outlets, the media has been ignoring it. What coverage we’ve seen –especially from the Associated Press– tends to focus not on ACORN’s corruption, but instead on the political ramifications of what is now happening to the radical advocacy group-cum-organized crime syndicate. Still other news stories focus on the journalistic ethics involved in the hidden-camera videos of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles that helped to show the public ACORN’s barely concealed criminal proclivities. Particularly tedious are the whiny, typo-laden essays of Eric Boehlert of Media Matters who declares that whatever the videos are, they’re “not really journalism at all.”
Media critic Jack Shafer of the liberal Slate.com website excoriates the mainstream media for ignoring the ACORN story. Shafer wrote: "The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America complains that the ACORN videos, which aren’t a “major story,” are driving an “incomplete, misleading” media stampede. But Media Matters is wrong. Independent news organizations, including the Washington Post, the New York Post, and the Baltimore Sun, are chasing the ACORN story not because they’ve been bamboozled by the Breitbart exposé but because the dress-up stunt has pointed them toward what could be fertile grounds for wrongdoing."
Actually, when Shafer wrote the above referenced column on Sept. 23 it appeared the media was actually going to do its job and thoroughly investigate ACORN. Alas, it was not to be.
The President of France supports a pedophile: "Roman Polanski’s family yesterday praised the role played by Nicolas Sarkozy in securing the film director’s release on bail after two months in a Swiss prison. The French President “has been very effective” behind the scenes, according to the film director’s sister-in-law Mathilde Seigner, as Mr Polanski prepared to move from a cell to house arrest in his luxury chalet in the exclusive Alpine village of Gstaad. The Swiss authorities said that Mr Polanski would be allowed out once the agreed bail of 4.5 million Swiss Francs had been received. They have ordered that he should not leave his chalet - for fear that the first-rate skier might slip over the nearby border via a mountain pass into his adopted French homeland and escape US justice a second time. Mr Polanski must turn in his passport and have a surveillance system installed at his chalet, where he will wear electronic tagging, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said in a statement. “He must not leave this house,” the ministry said. Should he violate the terms of release, the bail, raised against the director’s apartment in Paris, will be forfeited to the Swiss Government."
Irish Catholic Church 'covered up' sickening catalogue of child abuse by paedophile priests: "Thirty years of sex abuse by paedophile priests was covered up by the Roman Catholic Church on an 'astonishing scale', a damning report has found. Four archbishops were among those condemned for allowing hundreds of vulnerable children to suffer so they could protect the Church's reputation. The Catholic hierarchy was granted police immunity and Church leaders protected abusers in some cases with the blessing of senior law enforcers. Hundreds of crimes were not reported while police treated clergy as above the law, investigators said. Fear of the public anger that would have followed high-profile prosecutions of priests was seen as more important than preventing the sex offenders from repeating their crimes, it concluded. Instead of reporting the allegations, Church leaders shifted the accused from parish to parish, allowing them to prey on new victims. The report, by the Commission of Investigation, said: 'The Dublin archdiocese's preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets.' The archdiocese 'did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state', it added".
Seattle silliness: "After 13 years of delays, and cost-overruns that tripled its estimated cost, Seattle finally finished the first 14 miles of its insanely impractical light rail system. Running between downtown and the airport, “Central Link” cost an unprecedented $330,000,000 per mile—nearly $200,000 per yard. Of course, ridership is barely half what officials predicted—and interest on construction expenses alone means a subsidy of $200 per ride. My wife and I tried the new system, experiencing a jerky, pokey ride that took 45 minutes. Officials claim the normal time will be 36 minutes, but acknowledge that the popular 194 Bus travels the same route (at a lower fare) in just 32 minutes! To force the unwilling public to use the white elephant light rail, they’ve arrogantly announced cancellation of the 194 Bus, starting in February."
Obama's grandmother in Mecca for 'Hajj' ceremony: "The grandmother of US president Barack Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia for the 'Hajj' or Islamic pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, a Saudi daily said on Wednesday. Sarah Obama, 87, is being accompanied by a nephew and Obama's cousin, Omran. On Wednesday Sarah Obama was in the valley of Mina with an African delegation, according to the Saudi daily Okaz. Obama, the mother of the American president's father, lives in a village in Kenya and is one of the many guests of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud." [During the election campaign, it was claimed that the the woman concerned was a CHRISTIAN]
NY Democrat says Obama an 'obstacle to peace': "In defiance of President Obama's demands that Israel cease building in sections of Jerusalem and the West Bank, New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind laid the cornerstone for the second phase of a new Jewish construction project in the Nof Tzion neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem. Together with Knesset Member Danny Danon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, Hikind spoke with reporters about the Jewish right to build in Israel's capital city. Hikind, a Democrat, asserted banning Jews from building in neighborhoods was segregation. He expressed wonder that an African-American president would endorse such a policy in the 21st century. Speaking with the media, Hikind blamed Obama for stalling the peace process. According to the assemblyman, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has latched onto Obama's calls for a settlement freeze as an excuse not to negotiate with Israel. According to Hikind, a Jew cannot even build a bathroom in Jerusalem without international condemnation".
Diversity has jumped the shark, horrifically: "It cannot be said often enough that the chief of staff of the United States Army, Gen. George Casey, responded to a massacre of 13 Americans in which the suspect is a Muslim by saying: "Our diversity ... is a strength." As long as the general has brought it up: Never in recorded history has diversity been anything but a problem. Look at Ireland with its Protestant and Catholic populations, Canada with its French and English populations, Israel with its Jewish and Palestinian populations. Or consider the warring factions in India, Sri Lanka, China, Iraq, Czechoslovakia (until it happily split up), the Balkans and Chechnya. Also look at the festering hotbeds of tribal warfare – I mean the beautiful mosaics – in Third World hellholes like Afghanistan, Rwanda and South Central L.A. "Diversity" is a difficulty to be overcome, not an advantage to be sought. True, America does a better job than most at accommodating a diverse population. We also do a better job at curing cancer and containing pollution. But no one goes around mindlessly exclaiming: "Cancer is a strength!" "Pollution is our greatest asset!"
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:39 AM