On Friendship, Faith, and Martyrdom

Faith Abbott McFadden (1931-2011)

October 6 is the feast day of Saint Faith of Agen.  Few people are aware that there is actually a saint named “Faith” in the martyrologies of the Church.  I took the occasion of her feast day to write about my friendship with the late Faith Abbott McFadden, who was senior editor of The Human Life Review until her death in 2011.   The good folks at Review posted my reminiscences on their blog today.

Faith was a champion of the fight for life, and she was a huge influence on me.  She and I had a 20 year correspondence in which we shared our observations on the changing culture and life in general.  Today’s struggle to create a culture that respects and values human life was central to Faith’s work.

We both understood that to openly identify as pro-life is an act that will get you socially rejected in most social and academic circles. And to persist in doing so – to refuse to trade in the Truth for the shiny objects of worldly “rewards” no matter the price — is where true martyrdom begins. Martyrs who hold that fast to the Faith are willing to shed blood if it comes to that.  That’s the story of Saint Faith of Agen.  Though mention of that saint never came up in our correspondence — I only discovered Saint Faith recently — today I seek to link the devotions of both women.

And so I offer this excerpt from the Review’s blog on the feast day of Saint Faith:

Saint Faith’s refusal to renounce Christ and sacrifice to pagan gods got her tortured and killed. And that’s what true martyrdom is about, really:  refusing to bow down to idolatry under pain of punishment, and even death.  It means holding fast to Faith.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and an old French adage rings truer than ever:  “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.”  My favorite translation of that is this: “The more things ‘change,’ the more you get same old, same old, same old.”  Indeed, as we witness the lightening erosion of religious liberty in today’s transformed America, we are increasingly facing the same choice as Saint Faith and all the saints: true worship or idolatry? God or mammon?

Such are the things my friend Faith and I reflected on.  And I can hear Faith adding a stoic “Natch” to all of the above.  I believe her outreach to me — and to everyone — was built on her understanding that God leads us to do his work through friendship, through one-on-one personal relationships, influencing the lives of others as well as our own lives.

I still fall short whenever I try to express the impact her letters had—and continue to have—on my life. And why wouldn’t I fall short? Why wouldn’t anyone who ponders the influence of another person on their life fall short in sizing it up?

I think the answer lies in the eternal mystery of love and the limitless trajectories a life can take. It lies in the fact that every human life is an entire universe of God’s making. There is just no way that the effect of one life upon another can be measured or predicted.

You can read the whole post here:  http://www.humanlifereview.com/9184-2/

 

 

Propaganda and Agitation in the Aftermath of Orlando

Today I talked with Professor Robert Oscar Lopez, about how the Orlando tragedy is being shamelessly manipulated by the LGBT lobby.  Its propagandists immediately shifted the blame for the massacre from the murderer and his stated motives to the claim that “homophobia” among Christians caused it. Such a wild fabrication amounts to the cultivation of hatred, pure and simple.  It was obviously calculated, and an act of war.  Demonizing Christians — and the attempt to institutionalize that demonization —  is alarming.  It serves only to polarize society further.  It’s a dangerous path which, in the end, only serves power elites.  You can listen to the podcast here:

GOP Governors Enlist with Transgender War Against Science, Human Rights, and Consent

The symbol of the transgender movement combines astrological symbols for male (Mars) and female (Venus) with shades of blue and pink.  (Wikimedia Commons) Even if I didn’t know what it stood for, I’d take pause because it just feels so swastika-ish.

The other day I published an essay at The Federalist about the political significance of South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard’s caving to the mafia-style tactics of the LGBT lobby.  He was the latest in a string of GOP governors who are shrinking from laws that protect freedom of conscience as well as children’s privacy.  You can read it here:  “South Dakota’s Governor Tucks Tail, and Runs from LGBT Mafia.”

After the South Dakota legislature passed a bill to allow schools to maintain separate restroom and locker room facilities for males and females, Gov. Daugaard actually vetoed the bill. His veto was basically the result of the craven cronyism that has saturated the corporate world.  Big business has been infused with the LGBT agenda for decades now, and their leaders at Chambers of Commerce everywhere generally do the bidding of the LGBT lobby. In addition to corporate pressure, Daugaard personally met with transgender activists who no doubt played victim while making clear that anything less than a veto would get him publicly tarred and feathered.

That article followed on one I co-authored last week with with Joy Pullmann: “The Transgender War Against Science, Human Rights, and Consent.”   In it we investigated legislation – such as that passed by South Dakota’s legislature – that would allow access to school children’s restrooms and locker rooms to continue as it always has: according to anatomical sex. Another South Dakota bill was aptly titled “An Act to Ensure Government Nondiscrimination in Matters of Religious Beliefs and Moral Convictions.” In other words, if you have serious beliefs about sex, marriage, and children, you needn’t be forced to perform acts that violate your conscience or totally gag yourself for fear of being fired.  But that bill was tabled, which is a grim sign for the future of freedom of conscience.

We had high hopes that Governor Daugaard of South Dakota would stand strong on principle and sign that legislation into law — or at least take no action and allow it to become law.  But between the well-monied LGBT lobby and the business world it controls, it seems a pipe dream to expect any official to stand on principle these days. The irony is that probably 90 percent of the population is on board with the South Dakota legislation to support freedom of conscience and privacy.   But the heckler’s veto can be a strong one if good people remain silent in the face of it.

Here are a few excerpts from that article on how the LGBT heckler’s veto works:

Their prescription was to first de-sensitize the public. Then to “jam” or suppress every word of dissent. Finally, everyone must convert. This cultivates a conditioned population. Once we are conditioned in this manner, we end up accepting agendas and programs that we’d at least question if our society respected clear and free thinking. Instead, people either self-censor or conform to the party line out of hope for social acceptance.

Representative government requires the citizens, who are themselves the source of our government’s authority, to be able to openly discuss social questions among themselves and consequently direct their representatives.

If we are afraid or taught not to speak, representative government cannot happen. Tiny factions like the LGBT lobby wield power over an unwilling populace, which breeds resentment against government for not aligning with our priorities. Political correctness therefore eviscerates government by consent; under it, government operates based on brute force, which escalates public disapproval in a constant cycle until the social repression is broken—sometimes with (God forbid) violence.

 

 

Militant Atheists Target an Old World War I Memorial

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, or “Peace Cross.”

One of the latest targets of militant atheists is the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial Cross pictured here.  In my latest Federalist article, I discuss the lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association that demands the removal of this monument which is also known as Peace Cross.  I wrote it in anticipation of Veterans Day and I hope many in the Washington, D.C. area will attend the wreath-laying there on Wednesday. You can read my article here:  Killing the Dead:  Atheists Attack World War I Memorial.

It’s been standing there — at the crossroads of Annapolis Road, Baltimore Ave, and Bladensburg Road just outside Washington, D.C. — for 90 years. Two mothers of fallen soldiers broke ground for it back in 1922.  On a bronze plaque at the base are the names of the 49 local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  The monument is massive, but its size accurately and appropriately reflects the feelings of people in the aftermath of a war that was unimaginably massive and tragic (total casualities — dead and wounded, both civilian and military — was about 38 million.)

There are two basic themes in my essay: the impact of World War I and the symbolism of crosses.  World War I was a cataclysmic event in human history that really set the course for so much of the violence of the 20th century, and the violence that continues to this day all over the world. And yet WWI is woefully neglected as a subject of study both in K12 public education and in higher education.  So more than ever, we ought to preserve and respect our memorials to World War I, not tear them down!  Second, the cross is basically a symbol of self-sacrifice.  It has been recognized as a symbol of sacrifice in war memorials for a very long time.

We honor the fallen because of their self-sacrifice. If you are able to grasp that reality, then you understand the need for an effective symbol to express it. More than anything else, the Bladensburg Peace Cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice in keeping with the enormity and the calamitous history of World War I. No other symbol so efficiently communicates self-sacrifice and suffering. No other symbol serves also to signify the hope that the dead did not die in vain, that they laid down their own lives so others would live in peace and freedom.

Understanding the history and the purpose of memorials is key here. If the plaintiffs thought this through in a meaningful and sincere way, they wouldn’t be doing mental gymnastics with the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to tear down the 90-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross.  Obviously, they have another agenda, which is to empty the public sphere of any and all religious imagery.   In the end, this is not just a war on religion.  It’s a war on history and memory.

 

Iran’s War on Dogs is Part of a War on All Personal Relationships

Stray 

Wanton cruelty to animals is well known to be a precursor to cruelty to humans. So humaneness to animals is a quality that any civilized society should insist upon. I touch on this in my recent Federalist essay: “Iran’s War Against Dogs.”

Dogs are amazing creatures, and it’s no wonder that there is a strong bond between them and human beings.  As companion animals they have a childlike innocence, a trust and loyalty that tends to melt our hearts. If we are in pain, they often sense that and will stay by our side to lend comfort. They are balm to loneliness.

The empathy and loyalty of dogs to their human companions runs deep.  They are great protectors and morale boosters who bring us joy and laughter. Everybody benefits —  including those who don’t particularly care for dogs — in a society that recognizes and cherishes the canine brand of companionship and unconditional love.

So what are we to think of people who have no qualms about the wanton killing and torture of dogs?  (My essay includes a video of the killing of dogs by acid injection, something I did not post here.) Obviously, there is something sociopathic going on with them.

We ought to understand that that’s the type of mentality the Obama Administration is propping up as it lends hefty support to the authoritarian dictators of Iran. We all know that the mullahs there not only preach death constantly – to America, to Israel, to Jews, to Christians, to Muslims they deem apostate – but they are also in the process of building a nuclear weapons program.

Americans seem to have become desensitized to the gravity of that threat, and even to the beheadings in the Middle East. But the sanctioned barbarity visited upon helpless dogs in Iran is something that can at least direct attention to the nature of that regime.

This is not just a war on dogs, but a war on all personal relationships.  The Iranian government would like all dogs completely banned as companion animals, especially now that more citizens there have dogs and the bond of love is growing. This is in keeping with any tyrant’s pattern of separating people from one another in order to control them. This pattern of isolating the controlled is a specialty of sociopaths like cult leaders and wife beaters too.  The idea is to separate their victims from any source of happiness independent of the tyrant’s control.

Let’s just remember that all dictators have on their agenda the intent to control every aspect of every person’s life.  In Iran this extends right down to the intent to forbid citizens to enjoy the companionship of dogs.

Tyrants Basically Hate Friendship

Ancient City of Aleppo before Civil War

Tyrants and bullies always meddle in happy and healthy relationships in order to destroy them.  Power mongers have always abhored happiness and goodwill.  You’ll find this on every level — from totalitarian dictators right on down to the petty mean girls in a middle school cafeteria.  Relationships are the primary source of power.   And wherever true friendship flourishes, human beings are not so easily exploited by outside influences. This is exactly why totalitarian programs and regimes have always had a keen interest in the extermination of one-on-one friendship – or any personal relationships they cannot regulate and control.

I thought about this the other day when I listened to Melkite Archbishop Jeanbart of Aleppo talk about the devastation of Aleppo and the dire situation for Christians there and throughout Syria. Christians of Aleppo have been leaving in droves since ISIS started fighting government forces there in 2012.  (Just to give you a taste of what’s going on, read the travel advisory from wikitravel. In part it states: “If in Syria, the best advice is to GET OUT.”)  The brutality and bloodshed have been merciless.  And Aleppo — once a magnificent city — is now thoroughly scarred by the fighting. The accompanying photos give a small idea of the contrast before and after.

ISIS attacked the compound of the Armenian Church of 40 Martyrs in Aleppo.

The archbishop spoke about relations between the Christians and Muslims of Aleppo before the Civil War.  Life was good, relations were friendly and people lived in peace.  Then, ISIS injected into the culture a certain “mentality” as it practiced its senseless murder and destruction.   It is a mentality of separation, division, hatred, and violence that has destroyed the co-existence of different religious groups.

ISIS is in the business of sowing ill will and poisoning any chance of trust among peoples because no one in their right mind would ever choose to live voluntarily under such a regime.  Its power can only come about through brute force.  Christians in Aleppo — and all civilians — report feeling safest when in government-controlled areas, not ISIS controlled areas.  So even though President Assad is considered a brutal tyrant among many in the West, many who are personally living through the hell in today’s Syria, including Christians, tend to feel that Assad is at least the best of a sorry lot.

In any case, what we are seeing now in Syria and throughout the Middle East is the recurrence of conditions that promote genocide.  And it’s probably fair to say the recurrence of genocide itself. As we ponder this, we should remember that the conditions that promote genocide always involve propaganda that sows ill will and the demonization of a people.  We see it in the rise of anti-Semitism. And we see it as the Western press promotes a strong anti-Christian bias which also fuels these conditions.  And when the mass media goes along with such things, you get a death spiral.  Worse, leaders in the West who say little and do less about it all fan the flames through their indifference.  This toleration and lack of condemnation of the violence sends a clear signal to the perpetrators that they can get away with as much murder and mayhem as they like.

Indeed, ISIS is doing to Christians just as the Ottomans did to Armenians as they embarked on that genocide that murdered 1.5 million a hundred years ago.  I wrote about this in my April 24 Weekly Standard article “Genocide begins with Groupthink.”  So it fascinated me to hear the Archbishop opine that what we are seeing now with the rise of ISIS looks very much like a re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire.

It’s especially sad to reflect on the fact that there has been very little social progress over the past 50 years.  Actually, it’s been an era of great social regression.   Our best hope is for people of goodwill to remember the link between freedom and friendship, and to persist in planting the seeds of both.

 

Three new articles out today on Armenian Genocide Centennial

Armenians marched by Ottoman soldiers, 1915

Please visit these links to read three articles I wrote, all published today on the commemoration of 100 Years since the Armenian Genocide.

The more I read history, especially of such tragedies, the more convinced I am that it is our one-on-one relationships based in trust that is key to our survival and to freedom.   My article in First Things focuses on that.  My article in The Weekly Standard identifies groupthink as the fuel that allows such things to happen.  And in the Federalist I give an overview of the genocide.
I’ll be writing more about this soon.  Thank you again for following my blog.

 

Centennial of the Armenian Genocide is April 24, 2015

Armenian mother kneeling beside dead child.

As the granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors, I’ve been paying close attention to this year’s one hundredth anniversary of the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.  Lately, I’ve been immersing myself in reading and writing about it.  It’s depressing to say the least.  And draining.

But as the philosopher George Santayana warned, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  And I see a reflection of the Armenian Genocide in the mass slaughter of Christians in today’s Middle East.  So we absolutely must not forget history.  We must respect the historical record and resist all corruption of the language in speaking about that record.

While studying the genocide, I strived to connect all of the dots – the conditions of World War I when it all took place, the actions of the Ottoman government of Turkey to exterminate the Armenian Christians, the political differences among the Armenians themselves, the role of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and so much more.

I am so grateful to my grandfather for giving all of his descendants an extraordinary gift by chronicling his experiences in writing.  I can feel the fear and confusion as he describes how the police arrived in his village in the summer of 1915 with orders for all Armenians to leave their homes before sunrise.  A chaotic caravan formed.  And it was “Bedlam all around! The whining of the dogs, the lowing of the oxen, the bleating of the cows and sheep!  The wailing cries of the women. . .”  The wife of one villager was in active labor during the chaos, and was placed on a cart where she gave birth to a stillborn baby.  On another cart a villager placed his disabled adult daughter who could neither speak nor walk.  Her wailing was loud and pitiful and ended when “a police guard split her skull with the butt of his rifle.”

There are plenty more horrors to add to that one.  But there are also stories of great kindness and miracles along the way. And I am amazed to be able to map out my grandfather’s deportation route from his village in the Kayseri region in central Turkey.  The many places he passed through included a strenuous journey through the Taurus Mountains, the ancient Armenian city of Sis, down to Hama in Syria, and then Aleppo where huge numbers of Armenians were concentrated in filthy camp conditions.  He would later go to Adana and then board a ship from Mersin to get to Smyrna.  There he and my grandmother survived the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922.  They managed to get to Greece, and then, finally America.

Through a great miracle my grandfather and his caravan avoided being deported to Der Zor, which was deep in the Syrian desert where much of the killing took place.

I will have a few pieces published soon on the genocide.  And I’ll post them on this blog.  In the meantime, a great resource to read up on it all is at http://www.armenian-genocide.org/online_exhibits.html

Mulling over the Question: “Who is my Neighbor?”

In my latest Federalist article I reflect on how I watched a manhunt break out during a morning walk.  It led me to consider things both practical and spiritual:  “It was a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — For a Manhunt

FYI, the clip above gives a bit of “ambiance,” though that segment was not filmed on my street.  The action shifted all morning.  But I didn’t even know they were entering houses until I found this clip!  It’s interesting that this was put up by Russia Today news.  (This makes me chuckle a little because it reminds me a bit about the way Soviets liked to do propaganda, and how they would have loved to zero in on something like this to show “very bad Amerika.”)

It was a wild morning for me.  In the aftermath I considered two questions, one practical and one spiritual.  The practical side had me thinking about personal security (as in firearms.)  The spiritual side had me reflecting on the question put to Christ just before his parable of the Good Samaritan: “Who is my neighbor?” And how do people get to be the way they are?

 

This Past Week Shows that PC is Morphing into TC

Detail of “The Natchez” by Eugene Delacroix (1835.) Natchez father and mother with newborn (uploaded from Wikimedia Commons.)

Several events last week show just how fast certain cultural forces are working to separate us from one another, always, of course, in the name of “equality.” Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana spoke about how important it is for children to have both a mother and a father, and also criticized the use of artificial reproductive technologies in order to deliberately deprive a child of a mother or a father. Rock star Elton John who with his same sex partner has two such children, immediately called for a boycott of Dolce and Gabbana.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a Catholic who has taught for over 30 years in a Catholic school expressed her support for traditional marriage — in line with Catholic teaching — on her personal Facebook page.  She is now the target of an LGBT-supported petition campaign to have her fired, as well as for the school to promote “anti hate speech.”  The Catholic Church itself has not defended her, to put it mildly.

Another adult child raised by lesbians has come out in opposition to same sex marriage.  Heather Barwick’s article in The Federalist,  “Dear Gay Community: Your Kids are Hurting” has so far garnered over 42,000 social media shares and thousands of comments.   She has become an object of vitriol and scorn by the militant LGBT lobby for voicing her opinion.  She and other adult children from same sex households – including Katy Faust, Robert Oscar Lopez, Dawn Stefanowicz, Denise Shick, and Rivka Edelman – will be earning more wrath from LGBT shock brigades as they file amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court voicing their opposition to same sex marriage.

What do all these cases have in common?  Well, I could state the obvious, which is that the critical issue for kids is not so much having a gay parent, but yearning for a missing mother or father. And whether or not a parent is missing because of divorce, adoption, or other conditions is not the point.  The inherent issue with same sex parenting is that it absolutely requires that one parent be missing from the family.  It also requires that the law implicitly deny all children this right.

But there is another common thread that runs through all of these stories.  It’s the brutal silencing of any voice of dissent.  Political correctness is just too cute a term for the sort of fascism that’s running rampant through society today, particularly on the marriage issue.  I commend you to again read “Gay Marriage: A Case Study in Conformism,” by Brendan O’Neill.  PC has become the sort of extremism that ramps itself up to a level that invites savagery.

Which brings us to the topic of tongue cutting.  TC for short.  If we had a spectrum of free speech with civil society on one end and tongue cutting on the other, I would say we have definitely crossed the halfway point and are proceeding in the direction of tongue cutting.  Saddam Hussein used to literally have critics’ tongues cut out. Tongue cutting is also standard operating procedure in the world of Islamic fascism and sharia law.  That’s because whenever you are dealing with totalitarians, the very idea of freedom of expression cramps their style.  Of course we’re not at the literal reality of TC, but I think it’s fair to say that TC is now a virtual reality.