Morning Report, Weekend Edition, September 26th: Hart Against the Atheists, Is Obama Narcissus?, Reconsidering ACORN, Moron in Wolf’s Clothing, and the Astounding Kirk Cameron
One Christian’s perspective on the day’s news:
1. CHRISTIAN POLITICAL ADVOCACY. The Christianity Today website has begun a weekly roundup of what evangelical political groups, from across the political spectrum, have said and done over the past week. It’s an excellent new feature and I expect to use it often. Though it’s not a summary of news and commentary from an evangelical perspective, which this blog seeks to provide (among other things), it tells us how political advocacy groups are responding to the news.
So check out their Political Advocacy Tracker. It describes the “Value Voters Summit” as well as a meeting of faith leaders at the G-20 summit. Glen Carey, director of government affairs for the NEA, had these words:
“The global economic crisis has pushed more than a hundred million people back into desperate poverty, erasing many of the economic gains of recent years,” he said. “As our leaders continue guiding a process of economic recovery, we want to make sure that the needs of the poor and vulnerable are at the top of the agenda.”
I’m also encouraged by the response of Rusty Prichard, one of the more progressive evangelicals to add the Value Voters Summit. According to the roundup:
Of the 1,800 attendees, a few were evangelicals with a more progressive politics. Evangelicals for Social Action’s Rusty Pritchard attended the “Global Warming Hysteria” session. It was not what he expected. “I was delighted and surprised when Cal Beisner, a prominent global warming science skeptic, publicly distanced himself from over-the-top accusations aimed at Christian creation care activist,” Pritchard wrote. “In fact Beisner went out of his way to mention us and welcome us publicly, to express his shock at discovering the ill-conceived workshop title and description, and to admit that some Christians come to opposite conclusions about the validity of climate science and the need for action. He was gracious and civil.”
Pritchard also argued that criticism of Obama’s policies are not racist, and lauded the inclusion of black leaders at the summit. “A big theme repeatedly emerged, which the rest of the Christian church needs to admit. Conservatism and racism do not go hand-in-hand. … Some of the charges leveled against our most conservative brothers and sisters are frankly ridiculous, and we all should do what we can to stop them.”
This, it seems to me, is progress.
2. HART TAKES ON THE ATHEISTS. David Bentley Hart is one of the brightest and most original theologians writing today. He is Orthodox, and still fairly young. So I was delighted to discover his new book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies. Hart supplies a critique of the so-called New Atheists, but goes far deeper than most, not merely refuting their arguments but showing the way that modernists have created their own mythologies. Very important stuff. Although I haven’t read the book yet, I can already tell you that I strongly recommend it.
Here is a piece from a review at Christianity Today:
The New Atheists trade in “fruitless abstractions of religion,” Hart writes, and reduce Christianity to its history’s “bloodthirsty crusaders and sadistic inquisitors”—in other words, to its worst constituent parts. But far from being an obstacle to human flourishing and fulfilment, Hart asserts, Christianity gave birth to the idea of humanity as we know it. Never before the 2,000-year-old religion were slave and free, man and woman, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile welcomed in equal measure and with immeasurable love.
Much of Atheist Delusions reminds readers of the importance of remembering what Christianity has done for us—not just for the believer in personal salvation, but also for the nonbeliever in human history. Would we have had medieval leper hospitals if not for Christ’s teachings of kindness and his charge to seek the good of those less fortunate? Would almshouses, orphanages, and hospitals have come into existence without the Christian message that God dwells in “the least of these”? Hart finds no precursor in pagan society that shows that Christ’s message was anything but revolutionary.
He also refutes many of the New Atheists’ unjustified charges regarding witch hunts, the Inquisition, wars of religion, the destruction of the Alexandrian Library (which supposedly symbolizes Christians’ antipathy toward learning), and so forth. You might think, as I did, that saying that much of Christian history has been distorted in this debate is hardly revelatory. But Hart goes further, asserting that [atheism] itself has a mythology of its own, according to which the Age of Reason came to birth during the Enlightenment (Genesis), scientists such as Galileo have been sacrificed (as martyrs) for the cause, and the superstitions of religion (evil) must be fought in order for science and reason (good) to prevail. Modernity has rewritten the past, editing out the role of the church, the cradle of many triumphs of scientific inquiry.
You can find the book at Amazon. I’ll see whether I can arrange an interview.
3. IRANIAN FLANKING MANEUVER. Fascinating story behind yesterday’s announcement regarding Iran’s second nuclear facility — I will tell the story in a separate post.
Additionally, an Iranian exile group opposed to the theocrat thugs in Tehran claimed this week that Ahmadinejad’s government operates two secret plants that fabricate detonators for nuclear weapons.
One of those sites is in an east Tehran suburb, another in that enormous city’s exurbs. The major enrichment site that embarrassed our president sits near Qom, Iran’s holiest city.
Ahmadinejad’s boys know what they’re doing. They’ve dispersed their nuclear program across urban areas and deep underground. The network is not only hard to hit — it’s impossible to strike effectively without inflicting thousands of civilian casualties.
5. OH THE HUMANATY. Humana, which sells Medicare Advantage insurance plans (which go beyond typical medicare coverage), sent a mailer to its customers saying that the reforms under consideration in Congress would result in cuts to coverage under Medicare Advantage. Whether or not you believe Humana is telling the truth will depend on whether or not you believe that hundreds of billions can be cut from Medicare Advantage without affecting coverage. But the government forced Humana and others like it to refrain from any such communications. Republicans have called this a “gag order” and a suppression of free speech. It accused Humana of misleading a vulnerable population, seniors. While this is not exactly a suppression of speech, in my view, it is certainly conduct unbecoming of the executive branch. Essentially, companies that receive money from the government are being told that they cannot protest the proposed reforms (or at least, cannot protest them in ways the government does not approve), or else they will lose their contracts and perhaps face legal action. Republicans are protesting.
On a related note, Harry Reid now calls the “trigger” option a “doggone good idea.”
6. OBAMA = NARCISSUS? Strong words from Michael Gerson on the “narcissism” of Obama’s rhetoric on the international stage. I generally find Gerson a fair-minded observer, capable of criticizing both sides. So I pay attention to what he writes. What do you think: is Obama narcissistic? I don’t know, but it reminds me of the need to pray for our leaders, and specifically to pray for their humility and character.
7. SPEED READING. Some Democrats are joining Republicans in calling for a bill to be online for 72 hours before any vote. Seems eminently reasonable, doesn’t it? Isn’t this something we can all support? Actually, didn’t Obama promise something like this?
8. WHY THE RUSSIANS LOVE CHESS. An interesting story on how the Russians and Soviets subsidized instruction in chess (ever wonder why so many of the great chess masters were Russian?).
9. RECONSIDERING ACORN. If you’ve been wondering why Conservatives have long loathed ACORN, and even organizations like it, you could do worse than reading this explanation. The author is quite entrenched in his ideology, but he explains the case pretty well.
10. KIRK CAMERON TAKES ON THE ATHEISTS. If you have a strange desire to hear Kirk Cameron explain the increasing godlessness of our culture, you can find the video here.
11. MORON IN WOLF’S CLOTHING. Somehow I missed Wolf Blitzer’s horrid performance on Jeopardy. Enjoy:
Wow. Just wow. Andy Richter’s score: $68,000. Wolf Richter’s score: $4,600. The comedian scored over 70,000 points more than Wolf. Holy smokes. How embarrassing for a news anchor.
I found it through this very enjoyable review of the week in news.