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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On the Coming Syrian Intervention

My views on Syria: oh, please, NO! We shouldn't go!

I've been listening to the news and now understand that the Obama administration wishes to commit us and allies to the support of the Syrian rebels. I am going public to declare myself a dissenter and critic of this policy.

First of all, I am not a man of the Left who instinctively sees in the exercise of US power a force for evil. I view myself as a God, country, property rights, gun ownership (by the law abiding), anti-sexual revolution, limited government conservative. I also believe that historically, America has been in the right. I believe that our confrontation with the Communist states throughout the Cold War was right--and a position forced on us by the machinations of Stalin and his minions (including China's Mao Zedong and Viet Nam's Ho Chi Minh, both of whom I view as fundamentally vicious).

But where is the pressing national interest in Syria? Are we defending allies' oil supplies? No. Are we stopping an aggressive ideology that has pledged itself to our destruction? No. Will the Middle Eastern balance of power be radically altered? Possibly, but in ways that are problems for Turkey, Israel, and Iran rather than us. Will this bring us closer to a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace settlement? Absolutely not, and may even make such a quest the modern equivalent of the search for the Holy Grail.

I agree that the Assad regime is odious. The Ba'ath Party was founded in imitation of the Fascist and National Socialist parties of interwar Europe. The Ba'athis have presided over the liquidation of millennia-old Jewish communities in the lands between upper Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. They are cruel and relentless towards dissent. They were also faithful partners of the Communist Bloc throughout the Cold War. I would not want a wooden nickel of my taxes to go to helping the Ba'athis in any way.

But what of the rebels?

It has been clear to anyone who cares to look and think that the Syrian rebellion is not the benign "democratic" movement our administration (and its media shills) has been telling us it is. Its leadership is made up of Qaida sympathizers and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. As for the latter, I refer all to the writings of its chief ideologue, Seiyyid Qotb, to see how the MB hates us not simply for anything we've done, but for who we are and what we value--not least of which are political liberty, the right of dissent, and equal treatment under law for women and minorities. Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood, in case anyone has forgotten, are the wonderful fighters for equality and justice who brought us the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001. It is a complete and utter disgrace that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed probably during an attempt to carry out secret talks with Turkish representatives about arming the Libyan rebels. Now that we seem to want to put together a whole coalition to hand Syria over to the Qaida and MB fighters, it has gone beyond disgraceful.

Further, the Syrian rebels are busy attacking, killing, driving out, and raping Christians in the areas they control. Like the Ba'athi liquidation of Syria's Jewish communities, this is also the liquidation of communities that go back to the very beginning of Christianity. Paul the Apostle was himself baptized by the church in Damascus, and sheltered by first-generation Christians there by the names of Judas and Hananiah (Ananias--see Acts 9:10-19). I would urge all to peruse the web pages of the Barnabas Fund to keep up to date on the plight of these communities now.

The treatment meted out to non-Sunnite Muslims by the Syrian rebels is also disturbing. 'Alawites and Shi'ites are also targets.

Yes, our allies in Sa'udi Arabia and Turkey are backing the rebels. But whatever for? Sa'udi Arabia has a long-running feud with the Ba'athis, and now that the Cold War is over, this is no longer a community of interest between the House of Sa'ud and the USA. Turkey's regime has become Islamicist of the Sunnite variety, and it may be wiser for US policy to take close looks at how Turkey is now treating its own minorities, apostates from Islam, and other such vulnerable categories. We would do well to consult with such other allies as Greece and Bulgaria over how they may feel about a resurgent Islamicism in their former colonial master.

The Obama administration is committing us to the support of an implacable enemy force. It has never addressed the odious ideology animating the Syrian rebels, nor their links to other movements that continue to demonize and vilify the US. But it is all the more disconcerting to see the Republican Party failing in its role as opposition, and the major media's shocking complicity when it should be a watchdog against an unnecessary waste of American treasure and lives.

I would love to know if anyone else out there feels as I do.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Views on "New" Gospels and their Purveyors

Recently, on Huffington Post, I read an interview with Elaine Pagels discussing her new book on Revelation.  After I read that she thinks John was a Jew who believed in Jesus and didn't like the Roman state, I nodded in agreement, and said a hearty "Ho-humm" to myself.

Franky, Elaine Pagels is one of the most over-rated scholars writing about New Testament-related themes.  I've been profoundly unimpressed with her work ever since people near and dear to me gave me her _Gnostic Gospels_ (1979) to "set me straight" about my confessional Protestant orthodoxy.

In _Gnostic Gospels_, Pagels resoundingly flunks Ecclesiastical History 101.  She posits that the Nag Hammadi texts were hidden by Coptic monks facing persecution from Athanasius, the 4th century orthodox bishop of Alexandria.  However, Gnosticism was a phenomenon of the 2d and early 3d centuries, not the 4th.  Athanasius and his colleagues at Nicaea in 325 whose opinions he defended were fighting Arians and Semi-Arians, not Gnostics.  Moreover, Athanasius was more often than not on the receiving end of persecution, being exiled three times to the Rhine frontier by Constantine's Semi-Arian successors.  As for the Coptic monks, their dean, the redoubtable hermit Anthony, came out of the desert to show support for the beleaguered Athanasius.

Further, Pagels seems to think that the Coptic "Gospel of Thomas" (probably written a couple of generations after Judas Didymus Thomas was martyred) is more pro-woman than the canonical Scriptures.  The work ends with these words:

Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.  Jesus said: Lo, I shall make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males.  For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Logion 114).
It seems that the pseudo-Peter and the pseudo-Jesus of the pseudo-Thomas are in agreement that women as women aren't subjects of salvation.  Yet for all its supposed "misogyny", the canonical, 66-book Bible never seems to suggest that Sarah, Rebecca, the Hebrew midwives, Zipporah, Miriam, Mary, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Priscilla, and all those other wonderful sisters will not be walking around the new heavens and new earth after the resurrection of the saved with two X chromosones, or will somehow sprout external genitalia.

Pagels apparently likes the Jewishness of John of Patmos.  Yet this is quite an inconsistency with her long championship of 2d century Gnosticism, which demonized the Old Testament and relegated its God to something far inferior to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Had Pagels' beloved Gnostics "won", Christianity would never have developed a bad conscience over anti-Semitism.

Pagels is the purveyor of a myth that mitred, monarchical 4th century bishops determined the New Testament canon on the basis of whether or not a text would support their claims to power. Yet somehow, she never explains why these same purveyors of monepiscopacy allowed Luke-Acts and Philippians into the canon, when the former uses presbyter and bishop interchangeably in Acts 20, and the latter begins with a salutation to plural bishops in the single city of Philippi. She isn't alone in purveying this myth (Bart Ehrman also comes to mind). Perhaps her unsubstantiated reconstructions of Christian history are necessary to get around Irenaeus in Lyons, Clement in Alexandria, Origen in 'Eretz Yisroel, and Tertullian in North Africa all seeing four and only four Gospels during the 2d century.  Or, perhaps, Pagels is someone without the slightest feel for the flow of history.  Or, perhaps, as a latter-day Gnostic, she is more comfortable with myth; and thus joins a crowd of people who, claiming to find the true "historical" grounding of Christianity, are themselves lousy historians.

Pagels, the Jesus Seminar, and their ilk are lionized and feted by the media because liberal religion is finally waking up to the fact that it gets no aid or comfort from the canonical Scriptures.  It must therefore clutch at straws like the mystical but misogynistic Pseudo-Thomas. No wonder the academic study of the Bible and religion are in such a sorry state.