Thursday, December 9, 2004

Fighting Back

Every year for the last twenty, secularizers have been busy sucking the life out of the celebration of Christmas until, in its public expression, it has become little more than an empty shell of what it was for generations past. Like a debased paper currency with no precious commodity to support it, it has been inflated in importance but has no longer any real value. It is devoid of content, context, and meaning. If all the Christmas season signifies is a time for retailers to balance their books then what's really the point? What is it, exactly, that we celebrate? The winter solstice? Tim Allen movies? Christmas in the twenty first century is little more than Santa Claus, pretty lights, and Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, and if the trend toward removing all public traces of spiritual meaning continues there will be no public Christmas fifty years hence. A celebration which is a perversion of the thing celebrated will eventually whither and die.

The religious awe formerly inspired by the Christmas story has moved generations of Christians to create beautiful art, beautiful music, and beautiful lives. The secular world view has nothing to compare to it, and as they continue to denature this magical, mystical eve and day, they're succeeding in doing what they always do, they're turning something beautiful and wonderful into something tawdry, garish, and banal.

Secularism possesses the Midas touch in reverse. It turns what is priceless into dust and sand. It's little wonder that many people are fed up with the whole Christmas experience. Attaching no particular religious meaning to the day, they come to realize that the season is an obscene orgy of gratuitous consumption and synthetic joy. Indeed, it is dawning, perhaps, on some Americans that in the absence of the birth of the Savior there really is nothing to be joyful about.

Christians, however, are beginning to rebel. They're made as hell, and they're not going to take it any more. Or so it would seem from a couple of recent news reports, one from New Jersey and one from Colorado.

In New Jersey, members of the Columbia High School brass ensemble were not allowed to play Christmas carols at their holiday concert this year - not even instrumental versions. At a school board meeting Monday night, parents and students alike expressed their outrage.

"This is censorship at its most basic level and political correctness to its extreme," said student Ryan Dahn.

"When you close that door you are supporting ignorance, and I think it's a very sad thing," said parent Melanie Amsterdam.

The controversy is by no means an isolated case. The role of religion during the Christmas season is a source of annual angst. But this year, people in "red," or Republican, America - particularly Christian conservatives - are in an unprecedented uproar.

The "uproar" has spread to Denver, Colorado where the proletarian masses revolted at an annual "holiday" parade which had banned all religious trappings. The crowd lining the streets had the temerity to defy the town fathers by conducting a hymn sing and talking about the fact that Christmas means nothing at all if it doesn't celebrate God becoming man and dwelling among us to share in our humanity and ultimately dying for our sins so that we may have eternal life. That is, of course, the meaning of Christmas, the only meaning that can inspire genuine joy and wonder. It's a meaning that's a bit more worth celebrating, we should think, than that Santa was able to cajole Rudolph into guiding his sleigh onto every rooftop before dawn.

Even so, the process of reeducating a public which has forgotten the essence of Christmas promises to be long and arduous. Consider the sentiments expressed by Lori Brocesky at the Denver parade:

"Religious or not doesn't matter - it's the traditions that I want," said Mrs. Brocesky, a Denver resident who has come to the parade for the last eight years with her husband, Drew, and until this year never really found much to complain about. Now, she said, she wants to start a petition, to allow new voices and new perspectives from all sorts of groups, including churches.

Surely this is a start, but we can't help wonder what satisfaction one can take in the Christmas tradition unless that tradition emphasizes its religious heritage. But never mind. We're gratified that the proles are finally sticking their thumb in the eyes of the religiophobes at the ACLU, the officious bureaucrats on their town councils, and pusillanimous school administrators everywhere and are beginning to demand that they be given back the country in which they grew up.

Good Question

Rush made a big deal today about the fact that the National Guardsman who posed the question to Secretary Rumsfeld about the lack of properly armored humvees in Iraq was put up to it by a journalist, and Sean Hannity, as is his wont, followed the big guy's lead. We think they're wrong on this one.

Granted that it was not exactly admirable conduct on the part of the journalist, the fact is the journalist's ethics are of only minor concern. The important point, the one that we wish the talk radio guys would have stressed, is that the question itself was a very good one.

It's difficult to understand why all of our humvees haven't been armored by this time to give them at least some protection from IEDs and RPGs. There may be a good reason why they haven't, but Secretary Rumsfeld didn't give it, and we're glad the question was asked, regardless of the machinations behind it. Certainly anyone with a son in Iraq must appreciate that the military and our civilian leadership are having their feet held to the fire on this matter of life or death importance.

Backsliding Philosopher

Antony Flew, the renown British philosopher and outspoken atheist, has publicly embraced deism. There are several things interesting about this. First, Flew is 81 years old which is pretty far along to be undergoing a world-view shift. Second, he has gone from atheism to deism which is the reverse of the normal flow of traffic, and third, he seems to have been influenced to change his mind by the overwhelming evidence of design in the universe and the difficulty of trying to imagine a naturalistic origin of life:

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, Has Science Discovered God?

The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

Huh. No wonder secularists are fighting so hard to keep Intelligent Design out of public schools. Bad enough that an 81 year-old philosopher at the end of his career is astonished by the remarkable, awe-inspiring fine-tuning of the universe and the specified complexity of living cells. We certainly don't want to be exposing impressionable youngsters to the possibility that there's more at work here than just atoms spinning aimlessly in the void.

Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.

Well, that's a relief to atheists, we assume, although one wonders what comfort they can take in one of their most prominent members rejecting their most fundamental conviction, i.e. that there is no God, minimal or otherwise.

The Python and the Rat

Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail discusses the strategic importance of our military presence in Iraq> His key points:

Invading Iraq also accomplished another very important objective: establishing a beachhead in the Middle East. The significance of Iraq in the War on Terror is twofold. The establishment of democracy in the heart of the Middle East places political pressure on neighboring states to reform from within. Iraq can serve as a base of operations against terror sponsoring states of Syria and Iran if diplomatic and political options fail, as well a base of operations against Saudi Arabia if it is overtaken by an Islamist revolution or is complicit in another terrorist attack.

As mentioned yesterday in A New Containment, the occupation of Iraq has completed the encirclement of Saudi Arabia. A look at the map of the Middle East will show that an American presence in Iraq also has the same effect on Syria and Iran. With American forces in Iraq, the line of communications between Syria and Iran has been severed. Syria is now surrounded by nations with an American military presence, and none of them are particularly friendly; Turkey to the north, Israel to the south, Jordan and Iraq to the east, and the United States Navy's 6th Fleet to the West in the Mediterranean.

Iran faces a similar military problem, with Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait to the west, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east, the Gulf states and the 3rd and 5th Fleets to the south. The north remains open via Turkmenistan and the Caucasus states, however neither of these nations is likely to be supportive of Iran in the event of an American led military action. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Caucasuses may also provide another level of unconventional containment against Iran, as there are plans to host ground based anti ballistic missile systems to defend against Iran's nuclear missile program in the event the program is not stopped.

It is no accident that Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia have been divided and surrounded in this manner. These nations have been ringed with a series of logistical bases, naval, air and special operations bases and prepositioned military equipment. These facilities provide the support and logistical chain needed in the event that military operations must be executed against these nations from the spearhead in Iraq. Without Iraq, threat of invasion into Iran was limited to amphibious assault from Indian Ocean or Persian Gulf. While not militarily impossible, an amphibious assault would require enormous resources and increase the risk to Naval assets and the assault force. The American ground presence in Iraq provides for increased flexibility and safety if future operations are required.

The American military is slowly and inexorably, like an encoiling python, wrapping itself around the chief Middle-East malefactors and will soon, perhaps, begin to squeeze the life out of the rats who foment hatred and subsidize terror in these savage lands. The squeeze will probably not be anything so noisy as overt military action, but rather a silent and subtle constriction of the ability of the thugs to brutalize their people. As the masses of Syria and Iran see the fruits of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq they will ardently wish the same for themselves.

The presence of the American military so close to their borders will give pause to those tyrants who might otherwise counsel suppression of the people through armed force. They will find themselves between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to yield to the demands of the pro-democracy populace and unable to suppress their protests without risking a punishing blow from the American air force or a special ops surgical strike against their nuclear facilities. Let's hope that the Mullahs in Tehran and the Baathists in Damascus fall victim to the popular will before any serious application of American power is warranted.

Random Act of Kindness

Would you like to do something truly helpful and kind this Christmas season for the young men and women who've suffered wounds in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? Hugh Hewitt has a great suggestion:

The number ONE request at Walter Reed hospital is phone cards. The government doesn't pay long distance phone charges and these wounded soldiers are rationing their calls home. Many will be there throughout the holidays.

Walmart has good prices on AT&T cards, Sam's Club is even better, if you are a member. Send phone cards of any amount to:

Medical Family Assistance Center

Walter Reed Medical Center

6900 Georgia Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20307-5001

They say they need an "endless" supply of these -- any amount, even $5, is greatly appreciated.

We think this is a wonderful idea and we hope that our readers do, too.