A very timely message from a very unlikely source

I came across this editorial last week, and I thought it was well worth reproducing here (the original can be viewed here)…

Sarkozy and European Secularism

CHARLES COLSON

French President Nicholas Sarkozy is an unlikely scourge of European secularism: He is on his third marriage and has been called the “playboy president” by his critics.

But it is what Sarkozy has just said about the role of religion in French life that has really got his critics up-in-arms.

For more than a century, what the French call laïcité has been the defining characteristic of French politics and public life. The word, which has no English equivalent, goes beyond the separation of church and state. It is a kind of secularism that tends to see “any strong religious views as a direct threat to [ France’s] freedom and way of life . . .”

Thus, discretion about one’s religious views, especially among leaders, is regarded as “a necessary part of being French.”

Sarkozy disagrees. In a book he wrote before becoming president, Sarkozy declared, “I am of Catholic culture, Catholic tradition, Catholic belief, even if my religious practice is episodic.”

He continued this theme after becoming president. He has criticized removing references to ” Europe’s Christian roots” from the European constitution. In a speech in Rome last December, he emphasized France’s Christian roots. He invoked France’s ancient title of the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.”

He proposed a new version of laïcité, one that “does not consider religions a danger, but an asset.” That is because, according to Sarkozy, when it comes to teaching right and wrong, “the schoolteacher will never be able to replace the priest or the pastor.” Well said.

Sarkozy has also stood up for France’s often-beleaguered Jewish community. He recently announced that, starting next fall, French fifth-graders will have to learn the story of at least one of the 11,000 French children killed in the Holocaust.

He defended his plan by blaming the wars of the twentieth century on the “absence of God.” He further shocked French sensibilities by adding that Nazi racism was “radically incompatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism.”

This latter point is not hypothetical for the French president, whose maternal grandfather was Jewish.

Critics are appalled by Sarkozy’s invocations of religion. As one socialist leader put it, “a speech citing God not only on every page, but on every line, creates a fundamental problem for the republic.” Others chide him for disregarding the separation of church and state.

And, of course, they do not hesitate to point out the gap between his rhetoric and his lifestyle.

I wish that Sarkozy’s “religious practice” was less “episodic.” Nevertheless, I am gratified that he is taking on what has been called a “major taboo” in French public life. This may be the first time since the French revolution that a French leader has spoken seriously to the people about God.

A French-born writer, Hilaire Belloc, put it this way, “the faith is Europe.” Without Christianity, Europe would not exist. European secularism and the denial of its Christian roots have cut it off from its own heritage, leaving it vulnerable to the challenge of Islam.

After all, you can not fight something with nothing, which is what a “post-Christian” Europe is left with. That is why I welcome Sarkozy’s message — however unlikely the messenger.

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    Comments: 64

    1. Don the Kiwi March 25, 2008 at 5:45 pm

      What?

      No arguments yet?

      Ox, you must be losing your touch – by now there are usually 20 comments, all in some degree of disputation. ;-)

      I read the report on Sarkozy’s views some weeks ago. Maybe this guy will be the catalyst for the European Community to accept its roots.

    2. poorclear March 25, 2008 at 7:39 pm

      He is starting an important process of waking up for the French. They have thought that their identity is to be found in rejecting their identity. It was like a terrible phase of adolescence and it has lasted about 2 centuries. If for God a thousand years is like a day, or vice versa, for the French, 100 years is like a year. And they are coming of age past a difficult adolescent rebellion. The first signs of growing up are coming in Sarkozy’s more honest approach to religion’s contribution.

    3. Chris Sullivan March 25, 2008 at 7:42 pm

      Don,

      I doubt it.

      “I am of Catholic culture, Catholic tradition, Catholic belief, even if my religious practice is episodic.”

      Sorry, but the world just isn’t going to find that kind of witness very convincing.

      Heck, Sarkozy isn’t even convinced that Catholicism is actually worth following !

      The kind of witness given by some of the recent high profile Catholic converts like culture of death politician Tony Blair or anti-Islam and pro-Israel hard liner Magdi Allam doesn’t actually make Catholicism look very attractive.

      Neither does the rather strident, poorly written and quite unconvincing Herald article attacking the media’s take on social sins.

      The Church needs to find ways to positively engage with society rather than retreating into our own little bunkers.

      God Bless

    4. Gianna March 25, 2008 at 8:25 pm

      What? I’m confuzzeled. You don’t like the wittness of people who aren’t particularly ‘Catholic’ (fair enough) yet don’t like it when people are so hard line they say such horrible things as muslims are not actually Christians?

      I don’t get it, where is the line? ;)

      I also have to say that I really quite enjoyed that Herald article haha.

      As for the French president, I think that perhaps he is exactly what they need. The article here is more addressing France’s so called ‘memory loss’ about their Christian roots, rather than convincing people to practice their faith. I agree, this would be ideal and something all Catholics should strive for, however, I do think he is doing a bang up job in basically introducing a topic that has been off limits for a long time. Baby steps perhaps?

    5. Don the Kiwi March 25, 2008 at 9:51 pm

      Chris,

      I note your remarks, and in a human way, you are correct.

      Now lets see. ” That bloody Pharisee fanatic, Saul is imprisoning us Christians. We can’t touch him. ‘cos he’s a Roman citizen. I can’t see the Church in Damascus lasting too much longer; he’s on his way here to imprison us.”

      “As as for that freakish conversion he’s supposed to have had, well – I’ll believe it when I see it!”

      Well, blow me down – by the power of God, and the grace of Our Lord, that same devestator is now *the Apostle to the Gentiles*.

      Let’s not second guess the Holy Spirit – He blows where he wills.

    6. The Captain March 25, 2008 at 9:53 pm

      I agree with you Chris about the worrying sort of example of Catholicism Sarkozy sets!

      And Robert Mugabe for that matter.

      Thank God for JPII and Mother Teresa, but who’s alive to take their place and in the public’s (already pretty biased) eye represent a more hopeful kind of Catholic?…

    7. Dei Verbum March 26, 2008 at 7:03 am

      B16 is trying to awaken the west and Sarkozy’s comments are another example that it is happening.

      Sarkozy is saying we dont have to be saints to recognise Truth, but if we deny it we deny ourselves.

      Chris;
      Bishop Pat’s defence against the herald attacks was required for this reason. If we arent prepared to engage then the media wont respect the Church. The article was spot on.

    8. FXD March 26, 2008 at 8:44 am

      It’s a bit on the nose to be hassling the good bishop of Auckland Christopher.

      Good on him for standing up and doing some good on a public level.

    9. The Dumb Ox March 26, 2008 at 9:24 am

      “Neither does the rather strident, poorly written and quite unconvincing Herald article attacking the media’s take on social sins.”

      Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

      The Herald opinion column was well written and I applaud Bishop Pat and Gavin Abraham for having the fortitude and the love for the Church and truth to actually write it – well done lads!

      Chris, your comments remind me of the scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven, where the Muslim armies have surrounded the city and things look pretty bad for the people who are bravely defending the city from within the walls.

      Just as it looks like the invading Muslims are going to take the city, a bishop runs around shouting “convert to Islam and repent later”.

      Hizaah for Bishop Pat and Gavin Abraham, and for the excellent and well written article which articulated exactly what was wrong with the media’s total ball’s up of the seven deadly sins issue .

    10. The Dumb Ox March 26, 2008 at 9:31 am

      “Sorry, but the world just isn’t going to find that kind of witness very convincing.”

      Chris,

      You really need to take the log out of your own eye before you start passing judgment on other people.

      I would suggest that your witness on this blog is far from convincing.

      You spend all your time attacking Catholic history and teachings, or distorting and misrepresenting them – heck, you even attack the Pope and talk condescendingly about him.

      If I was a non-Catholic, it would appear to me that you don’t really follow Catholicism at all, and in fact it would appear that you have a strange self-loathing for your faith.

    11. poorclear March 26, 2008 at 2:01 pm

      Captain: do you disagree with what Sarkozy said in what was quoted in the original post? Or do you applaud it?

      If there is something wrong with what he has said, point it out – otherwise: why do you strike him?

    12. poorclear March 26, 2008 at 2:19 pm

      No one is saying that Sarkozy is the ideal Catholic or a replacement for John Paul II or Mother Teresa. But I challenge anyone who believes themselves to be a better Catholic than he to examine themselves and what right they have to judge him personally.

      Now, there will be saints on this earth right now who measure up to the standards of JPII or M. Teresa, for “from age to age (the holy Spirit) gathers people to himself.

      Among their number may be the long suffering daily mass goers in a parish near you who have put up with years of liturgical abuse and faulty sermons and who know
      that in their unworthiness, Christ has come to save them.

      Or it may be the person who prays day in and day out for vocations regardless of the tactics of feminists negligently employed in the diocese by the undescerning or by the cowardly (or by the blackmailed) to block initiatives such as the deaconate instituted by the Holy Spirit of God.

      Or it may be those who pray day in and day out for the gift of faith for their grandchildren, despite every effort by pseudo educators to reduce the Catholic faith to a trite recital of humanist manifestos.

      or it may be a faithful priest who for years has been derided as a narrow right-wing fanatic for keeping to the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church, protected by the Holy Spirit.

      The saints are not for us to judge but they are surely out there – and perhaps not so spectacularly before our eyes as JPII and M. Teresa, but with no less force of love – which is the only authentic power in the Church, despite what the opponents of deaconate and of priesthood may think as they launch out toward a priestless future of the glorious reign of the laity – who are the theologically equivalent to Marx’s proletariat after all, are they not?

    13. poorclear March 26, 2008 at 2:28 pm

      Chris, bishop Pat and Gavin Abraham did a great job in rebutting the pathetic reporting of the NZ herald for a week or more.

      That you prefer the herald’s take on things will not be particularly surprising to regular readers of this site, except for the fact that you usually ‘promote an obedience to the bishop at all costs approach’ – at least when the NZ bishops seem to be at odds with a normal interpretation of a Catholic approach to things.

      Methinks a pattern is emerging that is not particularly flattering.

    14. The Captain March 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm

      poorclear, let the rest of us know when you get off your high-horsed soapbox.

    15. Three Veg March 26, 2008 at 3:30 pm

      Captain, I’d be careful when ascribing your opinions of poorclear to ‘the rest of us’, at least one of whom would dissagree.

    16. Chris Sullivan March 26, 2008 at 3:41 pm

      poorclear,

      No, I don’t prefer the Herald’s take on things.

      But I do think that there are more effective ways to put the Church’s position than the said article.

      The best way to respond to the “social sins” comment is to patiently, politely, and humbly explain what was meant by the good archbishop.

      Instead the Abraham/Dunn article launched into a tirade against the news media, reporters et al which shed more heat than light and failed to adequately explain what social sins are.

      We missed a vital opportunity to put forward Catholic Social Teaching.

      Instead of addressing the issue we attacked our opponents.

      Something we tend to do at times…

      Many of the responses in the article were trite and inadequate explanations which may have meant something to us but were probably lost on most readers because the points made were not only a distraction from focusing on the real issues but were also poorly explained.

      Some of the points raised by journalists are actually valid. Significant elements in the Church (including Bishops) did support the fascists in Germany, Spain, and Italy (the legacy of that has a lot to do with the current state of the Church in Europe). The Church was late in coming to the environmental question (there’s nothing wrong in admitting that – the Holy Father himself admitted in Deus Caritas Est that the Church came late to the social question too). The wealth of the Vatican is a stumbling block to many.

      People listen more to those who humbly admit their faults, who patiently explain their points, and who refrain from attacking others.

      And this is not the only time we’ve reacted badly to news media criticisms of the Church. We did it over the “Bloody Mary” TV programme too.

      I think that this kind of reaction to the news media does the Church more harm than good. We come across as defensive, grumpy, aggressive and unable to effectively engage with the secular culture.

      God Bless

    17. James the Least March 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm

      Chris,

      I think that this kind of reaction to the news media does the Church more harm than good. We come across as defensive, grumpy, aggressive and unable to effectively engage with the secular culture.

      That’s your opinion, and you have a right to express it. I, however, have to say that I register in support of the Abraham/Dunn article. I think that it was well written and didn’t come across as grumpy, but rather as clever, concise and answered the various inconsistencies in the reporting the media had made thus far.

      I think you need to re-read it.

      We missed a vital opportunity to put forward Catholic Social Teaching.

      No, they took advantage of an opportunity to capitalise on some (misguided) interest in the Church and use it to remind people that we are still here, that sin is serious, that many of their misguided beliefs about the Church are wrong and that the media should scratch a little below the surface before jumping on the “crazy Catholic” bandwagon. It wasn’t defensive or trite – it was well-written and quite funny in parts! :) Anything other than that wouldn’t have been printed.

    18. The Dumb Ox March 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm

      Well said James.

      And excellent points in #13 Poorclear.

      Chris, it seems to me that you want a nice comfortable relationship with the culture of death, one where we just keep quiet in the face of gross blasphemy and injustice.

      Following Christ isn’t about being popular, well liked or even comfortable; it is about total abandonment of self to truth, to virtue and to love – love of Christ, virtue and truth.

      And this love must be so strong that it is even willing to be considered foolish in the eyes of our secular culture – the culture of death.

    19. Chris Sullivan March 26, 2008 at 6:32 pm

      Ox,

      I’m not advocating keeping quiet (although that’s precisely what Christ did at points in his passion).

      I’m advocating being effective in spreading the gospel.

      God Bless

    20. poorclear March 26, 2008 at 7:40 pm

      Captain – if there is something wrong with what I said, point it out. Otherwise, why do you strike me?

    21. greg bourke March 26, 2008 at 9:24 pm

      Oh, gee, golly, gosh, aren’t all the Catholic politicians so terribly hypocritical and imperfect. What a shock! A bit like the rest of us.

      And what’s wrong with being pro-Israel anyway?
      Not trendy?
      Where can I buy a “pro-Israel” t-shirt in NZ??
      Guess I’ll have to settle for a Che T-shirt, soviet red-star, or a PLO bandanna. Chic!

    22. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 7:08 am

      poorclear,

      In answer to your post #20:

      Go read what you wrote in your post #13.

      God Bless

    23. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 7:14 am

      Greg,

      And what’s wrong with being pro-Israel anyway?

      Nothing, its a good and holy thing to support Israel. Zionism is another matter. Here’s the kind of thing Magdi Allam says which is clearly at odds with the gospel :-

      Allam’s most recent book, which appeared in late 2007, is titled Viva Israele. In it, Allam argues that Israel represents a culture of life, in contrast with militant Islam’s culture of death.

      In a recent interview with an Israeli news agency, Allam was asked about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His lapidary response: “I hope that someday Israel will capture Ahmadinejad and force him to live the rest of his life between the walls of Yad Vashem.”

      Those views have not made Allam universally popular. He’s received numerous threats from Islamic radicals over the years, and typically moves in public with an escort. His tough line, however, has also sometimes drawn criticism from moderates, both Christian and Muslim, who see him as sometimes inflammatory.

      That was the spirit of a letter critical of Allam’s latest book published in the Italian journal Reset, signed by some 230 writers, academics and activists, both Muslim and Christian, in its July-August issue.

      “Journalism risks falling into the logic of cheering for one sports team against another, rather than being rational and analytical, above all when it’s dealing with delicate and sensitive subjects such as religion,” it said, accusing Allam of adopting the all-or-nothing logic of “totalitarian ideologies.”

      The appeal was signed by a “who’s who” of center-left Italian Catholic opinion, including Enzo Bianchi, founder of the ecumenical monastery of Bose; Paolo Branca, an expert on Islam and advisor to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan; Alfredo Canavero, a scholar who also writes for L’Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops; and Alberto Melloni, a well-known church historian.

      In effect, this school of thought believes that Allam’s hard line actually serves the interests of Western neo-cons and Islamic radicals, both of whom, they say, benefit from polarizing opinion in order to justify unending combat.

      http://ncrcafe.org/node/1686

      According to Allam’s own account he was not a practicing Muslim who converted to Catholicism. He left Islam, became practically an aetheist, and then converted to Catholicism.

      Fascinatingly, he recalls once receiving the eucharist (against “the rules” as a child at a Catholic school). This is something Allam and I share and is a common event in many conversion stories.

      I welcome him with open arms into the Church we both love. He carries some baggage; but don’t we all ?

      God Bless

    24. FXD March 27, 2008 at 8:26 am

      I find myself rather confused.

      I know what the phrase ‘get of your high horse’ means.

      I also know what the ‘soap-box’ image is.

      I’m just trying to picture, in my mind’s eye, how the two might be combined in a practical sense. A soap-box seems to me to be an inappropriate way of riding a horse.

      The points in #12 are on the money, Captain.

    25. The Captain March 27, 2008 at 8:32 am

      I thought it was a pretty good article by Gavin Abraham and Bishop Dunn but to be honest, from a media side of things, I’m not so sure we played this so well. Especially given the subsequent response by one of the original columnists.

      It’s difficult, no doubt, when you have a generally anti-Christian bent pervading throughout the mainstream media, but I just don’t think that opinion piece would have done more than preach to the converted. So to speak.

    26. The Captain March 27, 2008 at 8:33 am

      I think I was just trying to convey how over the top I thought poorclear’s comments were FXD, and took liberties with a few well-known sayings to do so ;)

      Ranting gets people where exactly? And I include myself in that, for the record.

    27. The Captain March 27, 2008 at 8:37 am

      greg,

      “And what’s wrong with being pro-Israel anyway?”

      Nothing, but I suppose it depends what you mean by that. Do you mean, what’s wrong with backing a superpower-supported state who exists on stolen land and continues to assert its authoritah with might and brute force on innocent people? Or do you mean what’s wrong with supporting a persecuted people’s right to a homeland (without fully endorsing the way in which they’ve gone about it)?

      There’s nothing wrong with being pro the rights of the Palestinian people, and it’s also not like you have to pick one or the other. It’s not “trendy” to support and defend the rights of Palestinians. It’s just moral.

    28. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 8:54 am

      The danger of Allam’s stridently anti-Islam and pro-West rhetoric is that it gives political/theological cover for the imperial wars the West is currently waging against Muslim peoples.

      And the Muslim street is acutely aware of that.

      It isn’t in the interests of the Church or the mission of Christ for us to align ourselves with the West’s current crusade against the Muslim people.

      And I’m not sure its a good look to go poking Islam in the eye by picking Allam to be one of the few especially chosen to be baptised by the Holy father at Easter.

      The Vatican is busy trying to smooth over the damage done by pointing out that the Holy Father didn’t make the choice but simply baptised the candidates presented to him (implying some other officals made the choice of Allam) :-

      VATICAN CITY, 22 MAR 2008 (VIS) – Late this afternoon, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. released the following declaration to journalists:

      “During this evening’s Easter vigil, the Holy Father will administer Baptism to seven people, five women and two men from various countries.

      “As is known, the Holy Father normally administers the Sacrament of Baptism on two liturgical occasions. In the Sistine Chapel on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord he administers Baptism to a group of new-born infants. On the Easter vigil he administers Baptism and the other two Sacraments of Christian initiation (Confirmation and Communion) to a group of adults of varying nationalities and conditions who have followed the necessary spiritual and catechetical preparation, which Christian tradition calls the ‘catechumenate’.

      “The catechumens who will receive Baptism tonight come from Italy, Cameroon, China, the United States and Peru. Among them is Magdi Allam, a well-known journalist of Egyptian origin, vice-director ‘ad personam’ of the Italian newspaper ‘Corriere della Sera’.

      “For the Catholic Church, anyone who asks to receive Baptism – following a profound individual exploration, a free choice and adequate preparation – has the right to receive it.

      “For his part, the Holy Father administers Baptism during the course of the Easter liturgy to the catechumens who have been presented to him, without making any ‘distinction between people’, in other words considering them all as equally important before the love of the Lord and welcome in the community of the Church”.

      OP/BAPTISM/ALLAM VIS 080326 (260)

      God Bless

    29. Scribe March 27, 2008 at 8:55 am

      Captain,

      …but to be honest, from a media side of things, I’m not so sure we played this so well.

      I think the initial response on radio and TV was good, but, as you point out, It’s difficult, no doubt, when you have a generally anti-Christian bent pervading throughout the mainstream media

      That meant sensible, reasoned comments from a priest on TVNZ were forgotten when the reporter decided to poke fun at the Church and the Italian bishop’s sound analysis by going down to the viaduct and asking yuppies what they thought about the “new deadly sins”.

    30. Gianna March 27, 2008 at 9:06 am

      The danger of Allam’s stridently anti-Islam and pro-West rhetoric is that it gives political/theological cover for the imperial wars the West is currently waging against Muslim peoples.

      Phhhhhheeeeeeewwwwwwwww………huge call Chris. No one will argue that the war in Iraq for example has added to the impression of a ‘war on Muslims’ , but I’m not sure I agree with your comment about the West waging a war against Muslim peoples. Given the massive quantity of Muslim immigrants in Europe, living peacefully and sometimes living by their own rules (such as some Muslim areas in France where the police don’t enforce French law and have let honour killings go un prosecuted) I’m not sure the West has a huge campaign. I think that many many Muslims are doing quite well in the West.

      I think there is definite fear of terrorism in the West and I’m not sure America fully understands that its a war they are probably not going to win (how do you fight terrorists?), of the difficulty in trying to establish democracy in a place that has no history of it, but I don’t think we can say the West is waging an ‘imperial war.’

      I think we do need to be careful how inflammatory we get in already inflammatory situations, and Allams comments probably don’t help. Polarizing opinion more, especially in the middle east is not what we need now.

    31. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 9:18 am

      I think when reporters and other people are just poking fun at the Church and not really serious in listening to her then we ought to do as one of the letter writers to the NZ Catholic reminded us that we are taught to do – to “turn the other cheek” as the Sermon on the Mount teaches and to stand silent as Christ did when encountering such ridicule during his passion.

      There’s a reason Christ teaches this – responding to ridicule with ridicule just makes things worse.

      But standing firm but nonviolently (which is what turning the other cheek actually is) will save oneself and others in the process.

      God Bless

    32. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 9:26 am

      Gianna,

      Yes, it was the West which invaded Iraq, not just the US.

      Australia, the UK, Spain and Italy joined the invasion.

      That’s Italy the same place where the Pope just baptised Allam.

      That connection isn’t lost on the Muslim street.

      God Bless

    33. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 9:55 am

      If I was a Vatican media official right now (and I’m glad I’m not) I’d be very worried about how the Holy Father’s meeting with President Bush is going to be received when the video of them greeting each other warmly is shown all around the world, especially in the Islamic world.

      Especially when Muslims are already suspicious of Benedict XVI after Regensburg and Allam’s papal baptism.

      Bin Laden knows this and he’s playing to it.

      We shouldn’t fall into the trap he set by dancing to his tune.

      God Bless

    34. FXD March 27, 2008 at 10:20 am

      Ah, Christopher,

      ‘That’s Italy the same place where the Pope just baptised Allam.’

      No, it’s not.

      I think you’ll find that the Pope baptised Allam and the others in an entirely different country.

      You’re implying that the Vatican somehow supported, or can be seen to be complicit in the invasion of Iraq simply because it happens to be bordered on all sides by Italy.

      Not true.

      What’s more, to leave your statement open as you have is either:

      a) dishonest, or

      b) forgetful.

    35. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

      FXD,

      On the Muslim street, the distinction we see between the Vatican and Italy is not often seen.

      They tend to see Italy = The West = The Crusaders yet again invading, occupying and killing us.

      Evangelising is not just about knowing the truth and telling it. It’s about understanding how the one being evangelised is likely to perceive what you are doing and doing it in a way which respects that. That’s the difference between Love and Triumphalism.

      God Bless

    36. Gianna March 27, 2008 at 11:56 am

      Holy Father’s meeting with President Bush is going to be received when the video of them greeting each other warmly is shown all around the world, especially in the Islamic world.

      I’m confused. Do we engage with the world or turn the other cheek? Talk to each other or sulk in the corner, too afraid to engage. Yes a concern, but that shouldn’t stop B16 reaching out to world leaders, especially those so powerful who are in most need of guidance.

      Second my point wasn’t about the WEST waging a war, its the idea that they are waging a war specifically against muslim people. I understand that the feeling on the street (of which you seem to have your finger on the heartbeat) may be of a ‘war’ against muslims but I disagree it actually exists, especially in Europe where most muslims seem to feel welcome (as they should).

    37. Gianna March 27, 2008 at 12:04 pm

      It’s about understanding how the one being evangelised is likely to perceive what you are doing and doing it in a way which respects that.

      Chris I totally respect this and think it is so important and that you have a really valid point.

      But I think there is respect and then there is ridiculousness. No I don’t think, like B16, exercising your free speech extends to totally discrediting anothers religion in a horrible way (RE Muhammad cartoons in Denmark).

      That said I think that worrying about a whole group of people quite literally rioting in streets if you say one wrong word is getting excessive. After many religions, Christians included put up with quite a significant amount of bias in the media without reverting to violence. Yes we must be careful, but that doesn’t being afraid to speak up and say your peace even if people disagree.

    38. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 12:12 pm

      Gianna,

      I take your point about a war against Muslims and I don’t think Bush/Blair/Howard et al were specifically targetting Muslims because of their religion (although some Americans are rather wont to).

      The war is against whoever stands in the way of The Empire.

      Today most of them happen to be Muslims.

      In the past they were Communists.

      Who knows, one day they may well again be Christians, as they once were.

      If we start resisting The Empire again, that is.

      God Bless

    39. The Dumb Ox March 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

      Chris,

      What a load of leftist nonsense – did you copy and paste that from the Al Jazeera website?

      The issue of Islam/Western relations is a very complex issue, and it goes back long before you were even a twinkle in your daddy’s eye.

      Throwing around Michael Moore type cliches is just unintelligent.

      Iraq should have never been invaded, but then you need to put yourself in the US position where they were extremely fearful of Al Qaedea joining with a nation state, like Iraq, to carry on their war against the West.

      The US panicked and did the wrong thing by invading Iraq, as a result this has actually allowed Al Qaeda to do the very thing that the US was most fearful of – they have now formed an alliance with the state of Iran, and are using the Iranian boarders to cross into Iraq to carry out their brutal attacks on US and Iraqi targets.

      This issue is far bigger than you seem to understand, and the stakes are far greater than you realise Chris.

      The Muslim extremists – the ones who carry out all the violence and destruction in the name of Allah and Islam – are gaining momentum in the Islamic world, and they are playing for keeps.

      While moderate Muslims may desire peace with the West and with Israel, the extremists don’t – they believe that Allah has ordained them to destroy the West, Israel and Christianity – and this has nothing to do with Papal speeches or US foreign policy – this is being driven by their ideology and hatred.

      This is why Israel is so forceful, and at times unjust, in their defense of heir homeland – they know that the majority of their neighbors are not interested in peace with them, instead they would rather see them wiped off the map (if you think Islamic hatred for the West is bad, just check out how they feel about Israel).

      Not only are they gaining more support and recruits in the Islamic world, they are also gaining support and sympathy amongst Muslims living in Western nations.

      Yes, the US’ foreign policy is a debacle that is adding to this problem, but don’t be fooled into believing the stupid and false notion that this is all the West’s fault.

      Just like most issues; there are two sides to every story, and this story is a long and complex one that is over a 1000 years old.

    40. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 12:54 pm

      Ox,

      I’m not unaware of Islamic extremism and the fires of hatred but I think that the West would be well advised to do what Benedict XVI keeps calling them to do.

      Start acting like Christians rather than Imperialists.

      Return to the West’s Christian heritage, not to our Roman Imperial Pagan heritage.

      “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”.

      In other words, responding to violence and hatred with violence and hatred just pours gasoline on the fire.

      There is a better way and it works.

      It’s the nonviolent resistance of the crucified one.

      It’s the way of Love, not the way of Bombs and Guns and Armies.

      Frankly, I do think most of this is the West’s, and Israel’s fault. People don’t hate us without some reason. They hate us because we’ve oppressed them, driven them off their land, and killed them.

      We violated the Torah and we are reaping what we sowed.

      God Bless

    41. The Dumb Ox March 27, 2008 at 1:49 pm

      “Frankly, I do think most of this is the West’s, and Israel’s fault. People don’t hate us without some reason. They hate us because we’ve oppressed them, driven them off their land, and killed them.”

      This comment just shows me that you don’t really seem to understand this issue that well at all.

      The Islamic extremists hated the West long before the US was even venturing into the Middle East with it’s ill conceived foreign policy debacles.

      Extremist Islam doesn’t believe that the Crusades of the Middle Ages ever ended, they just consider the last 1000 years a lull in the proceedings, and that they have an obligation to once and for all destroy the West and Israel and claim the West for Islam (as they tried to do with their invasions in the 1000’s).

      Long before Russia had even left Afghanistan, several leaders of the Mujahedeen (who were being supported by the US) were warning the US that Bin Laden and his army were dangerous Muslim extremists who posed a threat to the West.

      The extremists do not want peace, and they don’t simply want the US and Israel to be gone from the Middle East, they want to destroy the West because they believe that they have a religious mandate to kill in the name of Islam.

      They are unjust aggressors – end of story.

    42. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 2:07 pm

      Ox,

      You’re right about the US funding, training, and arms poured into Afghanistan which trained and fed Al Qaeda. I well remember the voices in the US Congress warning against such a crazy policy and how our aid would be turned against us. Unfortunately these voices of wisdom were not listened to in the haste to kill the Communists.

      I think you’ve explained very well how much of this mess is the result of the West’s own actions.

      The Crusades did a ton of damage and we’re still reaping some of the bitter fruits today.

      The way to defeat Islamic extremism is to stand firm with Muhammed and Allah for true Islam, not to resort to the unIslamic practices of war and killing. George Bush showed the right way to do this when he entered the Mosque and spoke for true Islam and against violence. We need to do much more of that.

      God Bless

    43. FXD March 27, 2008 at 2:38 pm

      In just the same way, Christopher, Islamic extremists driving planes into buildings et cetera do little for our perception of Islam as well.

    44. Chris Sullivan March 27, 2008 at 3:13 pm

      FXD,

      You’re right.

      We need to abandon the heresy of the Just War / Jihad and return to true religion.

      God Bless

    45. FXD March 27, 2008 at 3:19 pm

      I don’t know about the ‘term’ heresy in relation to Just War, Christopher, but leaving that aside;

      Perhaps one ought to say we (on our side) ought to return to Christ?

    46. The Dumb Ox March 27, 2008 at 3:29 pm

      “Unfortunately these voices of wisdom were not listened to in the haste to kill the Communists.”

      Once again; emotional rhetoric which misses the truth of the matter.

      The US had no real option but to support and fund the Mujahedeen.

      Russia invaded Afghanistan, and were trying to take it because it would give them a tactical advantage over the US and free Europe.

      The US were not trying to “kill Communists” – they were simply acting to protect themselves from the unjust aggression of Communist Russia.

      But that aside, you still managed to miss the point I was making – Islamic extremists hated the West and the US LONG before the US even had a foreign policy and was messing things up in the Middle East!

      The Islamic extremist hatred is older than the US nation is – the more extreme factions of Islam who are currently engaged in acts of terror were around long before the US even started making a hash of things on foreign soil.

      The extremists are not driven by a desire for justice, but by a belief that Allah has ordained them to be his instrument for wiping out and destroying all non-Muslims.

      The US did not create Islamic extremism, it already existed long before they did – and it is what drove the original Islamic unjust aggression and invasions BEFORE the Crusades were called to defend innocent nations from the Muslim invasions.

    47. The Dumb Ox March 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm

      Something for you to think about Chris…

      The West and the Rest
      GEORGE WEIGEL

      In his book, Without Roots, Pope Benedict XVI deplored the addiction to historical self-deprecation rampant at the higher altitudes of European cultural and intellectual life: a tendency to see in the history of the West only “the despicable and the destructive.”

      The same problem exists on this side of the Atlantic; in our universities and among our cultural taste-makers, the healthy western habit of moral, cultural, and political self-critique can dissipate into forms of self-loathing. Perhaps a civilization can afford to think of its past as pathology when it has no competitors. That is manifestly not the case today, when the West is being challenged by radical Islamist jihadism and by the new and market-improved authoritarianism of China.

      So, a question: What’s right about the West, about this unique civilizational enterprise formed by the fruitful interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome — biblical religion, rationality, and the idea of a law-governed polity?

      1. Openness. Thanks to its belief in the power of reason, and its commitment to a search for truth unconstrained by political power, taboo, or the whims of false gods, the West has evolved the most open civilization in human history. As British philosopher Roger Scruton neatly put it, life in the West is an open book; it’s too often a closed ledger elsewhere.

      2. Freedom. Over many centuries, the West thought its way through to the idea of the inalienable dignity and worth of every human life. That commitment to the dignity of the individual gave birth, in turn, to western ideas of freedom — freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom’s defense as the primary function of government. The world now swears allegiance to the idea of “human rights;” that idea was born in the West. So was the idea that slavery — an ancient human institution — is an abomination. So was the idea that women enjoy full political and legal equality with men.

      3.Knowledge. The Bible gave the West the idea of a God who imprinted his reason onto his creation; the Greeks gave the West the idea of the unflinching quest for truth. Put the two together and you get other great western inventions: universities, libraries, research institutes, and schools open to all. The West’s thirst for knowledge, coupled with its commitment to openness and freedom of discussion, produced the scientific method and the scientific revolution; thus virtually every major invention of the past half-millennium has come from the West. If we live longer, healthier, less painful lives today than human beings did a thousand years ago, we can thank the West’s scientific and technological creativity, which is a function of western culture.

      4. Generosity. In addition to ending the slave trade, abolishing slavery, and enfranchising women, the West has produced virtually every major humanitarian initiative in modern history, from the Red Cross to Doctors Without Borders, from the green revolution to the eradication of river blindness, from care for the mentally and physically handicapped to the abrogation of forced marriage. The modern human rights movement has taken root in many cultures, but it is motored primarily by the West — which is also the source of the overwhelming proportion of development aid for the world’s poor.

      5. Beauty. Many cultures produce beautiful things; only the West has produced Mozart, Bach, Michelangelo, Dante, Rembrandt, and Shakespeare. Absent a humanistic culture, you’re just not going to find the intensity of human grandeur and human weakness found, for example, in a Caravaggio painting or a Bernini sculpture.

      6. Humor. The West is singularly capable of making fun of itself — sometimes, to be sure, in vulgar ways. Still, that impulse to mock pretension and false piety, to cut the mighty down to size with a joke, is a sound one. Humor keeps things open, keeps things human, and nurtures in the West a capacity for healthy self-criticism.

      That the world’s migration patterns tend to work in one direction — from the rest to the West — is not an accident. Six reasons why have been noted here; more could be added. So — have you said something nice about your civilization today?

    48. greg bourke March 28, 2008 at 12:08 am

      #42 Chris.

      re. Crusades etc.
      Weren’t Northern Africa and the Middle East Christian prior to colonization by “true” Islam?
      These areas were Christian longer than the existence of USA and NZ combined!

      Why stop your analysis at the Crusades? Why were those areas under Islam hegemony in the first place?
      Gee, it’s like blaming Jews for being defensive and conveniently ignoring the Holocaust/Shoah 60 only 60 years earlier!

      Here you argue that the 8-700 year old Crusades are so offensive that it still underpins modern extreme violence. Yet Jews aren’t allow to get angry at the Holocaust?? Double standard.

    49. greg bourke March 28, 2008 at 12:59 am

      Captain etc,

      Israel is the size of the South Island.
      How little land do you want the Jews to have? None, OK. Easy, lets make them like the Kurds.

      Gosh when you argue against Israel like that you make it seem so reasonable. Great for cocktail parties eh?
      It’s like a wonderland where all the neighboring Arab states never banded together to push them into the sea (THRICE 1948, 67, 73),
      that Israel never gave most of the land back that it took during its neighbor’s aggression (esp Sinai where oil had being found and Gaza back to Palestinians not the original Egyptian colonizers!),
      that Palestine never democratically elected a government whose policy is the eradication of Israel (rascals!),
      or that Eygpt originally occupied the Palestinian Gaza strip in the first place.
      Never. Never. Land.

      You use the word “Authoritah” in jest, which was made famous by Eric Cartman of southpark.
      Cartman is famous for another stance towards the Jewish character Kyle Broflovski. Guesses? OK, put Cartman in a brown shirt. Guesses?

      In reality I’m not ardently pro-Israel or anything. I’m responding to this line because I’m astonished at how ardently anti-Israel you and others are in the guise of peace love and international fellowship.
      If Jews can’t live there where can they live? Original ideas please…

    50. Chris Sullivan March 28, 2008 at 6:59 am

      FXD,

      Christ is the centre of all true religion.

      Ox,

      George Wiegel would say that. He was and still is an ardent neoconservative supporter of the invasion of Iraq and of US imperialism. He’s employed by a think tank funded by wealthy US business interests.

      Greg,

      I’m for Israel as a Jewish homeland (as a spiritual Jew I have to be :) ).

      But it’s a fact that the Zionist project to create a nation state by terror and violence is not only profoundly un-Jewish but it’s a death trap for our people.

      We need to return to the Torah, love our neighbours as we love ourselves, stop oppressing them, turn back from violence and killing and return to the tradition of our ancestors handed down to us from God.

      Killing palestinians and stealing their land is a direct violation of two of the commandments handed down to us from Moses.

      God Bless

    51. The Captain March 28, 2008 at 8:05 am

      greg,

      “I’m astonished at how ardently anti-Israel…”

      I’m not ardently anti-Israel and can I politely suggest that if you really want to engage on this issue you don’t make such false allegations!?

      I’m ardently opposed to any state-sanctioned terrorism, no matter who it is.

      If Jews can’t live there where can they live? Original ideas please

      This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t have an answer to that. Nor, could I suggest, does anyone – hence the problem that currently exists! But that doesn’t sanction the way the land was taken, nor the way it is being kept.

    52. Scribe March 28, 2008 at 8:36 am

      I know people on here have differing opinions of George W. Bush, and maybe it’s all rhetoric, but I think it’s good that he’s made a commitment to work towards brokering a deal for the people of Israel and Palestine.

      Would establishing an internationally-recognised Palestinian state stop the violence? I can’t say. But my hunch is that it wouldn’t hurt.

      Does that make be anti-Israel, Greg?

    53. Chris Sullivan March 28, 2008 at 8:38 am

      There’s an account here of the oppression faced by Palestinians and Christians in Israel on Palm Sunday :

      http://ncrcafe.org/node/1693

      Now Mukahal, a nurse, said she just stays at home. Her 6-year-old son is sick and she cannot take him to the doctor at the government hospital in Jerusalem because she does not have a permit, she said. There are no government doctors in Bethany, and she cannot afford to pay a private doctor, she said.

      God Bless

    54. The Dumb Ox March 28, 2008 at 9:07 am

      “George Wiegel would say that. He was and still is an ardent neoconservative supporter of the invasion of Iraq and of US imperialism. He’s employed by a think tank funded by wealthy US business interests.”

      Yes Chris, and aliens landed at Roswell and have been supplying technology advancements to the US for the last 60 years.

      Oh, and who funds your anti-West agenda Chris?

    55. Chris Sullivan March 28, 2008 at 9:37 am

      who funds your anti-West agenda Chris?

      Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified by soldiers of the Western Empire.

      And they are still crucifying him today.

      God Bless

    56. The Dumb Ox March 28, 2008 at 11:08 am

      You should put that on a bumper sticker Chris – it could go beside your “Meat is murder” and “I love Michael Moore” stickers.

    57. Chris Sullivan March 28, 2008 at 11:21 am

      :)

    58. The Captain March 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

      I love Michael Moore. Nothing wrong with that.

      Well, I don’t love him really. But I love his work (‘cept for his whole abortion standpoint…)

    59. Gianna March 28, 2008 at 12:17 pm

      One issue I have with the whole Michael Moore thing. He is about extreme left as Anne Coulter is right. They are opposites (all good. And no one has to like either of them) Yet media usually reports something like this

      “Anne Coulter, the right wing/republican/jew hater”

      “Micheal Moore, the interesting/provocative film maker” (no mention of left wing etc)

      As for him, I”m not that much of a fan. I think he has made some great points (such as the dismal American public health system) but he is also a clever film maker, editing things to make things look the way he wants. Which is what everyone does in media, but just because all the american who appear on his films act and think like ignorant hicks does not mean everyone in america does.

      Anyways. Peace out :)

    60. The Dumb Ox March 28, 2008 at 12:50 pm

      I think Michael Moore does some good things, like his advocacy on certain social issues, but ultimately I lost a lot of respect for him after I found out about all the blatant factual errors that he includes in his films.

      Fahrenheit 9/11 contains at least 59 factual errors, such as:

      James Bath did not invest bin Laden family money in Bush’s energy company Arbusto. He invested his own money.

      Bush’s Presidency before 9/11 was not in serious trouble. No commentator said that he looked like a lame-duck president. Congress had passed his #1 bill (the tax cut) and was on the way to passing his #2 bill (the education bill).

      A 6-month study by a consortium of major newspapers shows that Bush would have won the Florida recount under any of the terms which Gore sought in his lawsuits.

      Investigation by the Palm Beach Post and others shows that race was not a reason why election officials mistakenly disqualified some voters, it was because they were incorrectly thought to have felony convictions.

      Moore states: “In his first eight months in office before September 11th, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time.” As the Washington Post reported, the figure includes weekends, and includes time in “vacation locations” such as Camp David, where Bush was working—as when he met with Tony Blair.

      The Carlyle Group is not a Bush playground. Many Bush opponents are investors, including George Soros.

      Prince Bandar has way too much influence on the U.S. government, as Fahrenheit shows, but American coddling of the Saudi tyranny is a long-standing bi-partisan tradition, not a Bush invention.

      The Saudi embassy does not receive special protection. It is not the only foreign embassy which is guarded by the U.S. Secret Service. An international treaty signed by the U.S. requires the U.S. to protect any embassy which asks for protection.

      Moore’s insinuation that Bush runs U.S. foreign policy according to Saudi instructions is contradicted by the Afghanistan invasion (which toppled the Taliban regime which the Saudis strongly supported), and by the Iraq War (which the Saudis opposed, in part because Iraqi oil will compete with Saudi oil).

      The Bush administration did not “welcome” Taliban diplomats in March 2001, but instead condemned them for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden.

      The various quotes about Bush administration cooperation with the September 11 Commission have been re-sequenced to create a false impression.

      The FBI did not “know” about al Qaeda suspects who were attending flight training schools. The information was never passed above the level of one field office.

      Moore say Saddam’s Iraq “had never murdered a single American citizen.” In fact, Saddam paid for terrorist bombers in Israel who murdered Americans, along with people of other nationalities. Saddam also sheltered the American-kill-ing terrorist Abu Nidal, and the bomb-maker for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. In addition, Saddam ordered assassination attempts against former President Bush and against U.S. diplomats in the Philippines.

      Moore claims that the Saddam regime “never threatened to attack the United States.” In fact, in 1997 the regime publicly ordered: “American and British interests, embassies, and naval ships in the Arab region should be the targets of military operations and commando attacks by Arab political forces.” On the first anniversary of September 11, Saddam’s regime called for suicide attacks on Americans.

      Moore portrays pre-invasion Iraq as a happy nation of kite-flying and weddings. In fact, a sixth of the population had fled Saddam’s tyranny. The United Nations and Amnesty International condemned “the systematic, widespread and extremely grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq, resulting in an all-pervasive repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and widespread terror.’

      Despite Moore’s claims, American media have not been mindlessly supportive of the Iraq war. For example, Peter Jennings has been extremely critical. The evidence that Moore offers to portray Jennings as a war supporter is a clip of Jennings reporting in April 2003 that Saddam’s army had collapsed—which was true.

      Moore calls Flint, Michigan, “my hometown.” In fact, he grew up in Davison, a much wealthier and much whiter suburb.

    61. FXD March 28, 2008 at 12:58 pm

      I know Ox, and some people don’t even think to blame the reformation, or even Ockham.

      Astonishing.

    62. Scribe March 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

      Despite Moore’s claims, American media have not been mindlessly supportive of the Iraq war. For example, Peter Jennings has been extremely critical.

      I don’t want to come off as some sort of know-all, but I was living in the US when they went into Iraq. Trust me: the media weren’t mindlessly supporting the war. They were barely supporting it at all.

      The media plastered the war over the front pages for four years; since the “Surge” started working, it’s been buried on page 17.

    63. Chris Sullivan March 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

      Scribe,

      That’d be why the NY Times later apologised for its uncritical support of the war.

      You know, because they were barely supporting the war at all.

      God Bless

    64. Don the Kiwi March 28, 2008 at 3:49 pm

      Mike Moore & Al Gore.

      Two of the best truth twisters and liars to come out of the US in a generation. And all for their own narcissistic ends.