Thursday, October 12, 2006

Off to Nuremberg With Them!

The liberal instruction manual on how to win debates evidently offers the following guidance:

When the facts aren't on your side shout the other guy down so that he can't be heard. If that doesn't work then haul him before a tribunal and threaten him with imprisonment for having the impertinence to doubt your truth.

At least that's the conclusion one would have to draw from this article:

A U.S. based environmental magazine that both former Vice President Al Gore and PBS newsman Bill Moyers, for his October 11th global warming edition of "Moyers on America" titled "Is God Green?" have deemed respectable enough to grant one-on-one interviews to promote their projects, is now advocating Nuremberg-style war crimes trials for skeptics of human caused catastrophic global warming. Grist Magazine's staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the "bastards" who were members of what he termed the global warming "denial industry."

Roberts wrote in the online publication on September 19, 2006, "When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg."

Gore and Moyers have not yet commented on Grist's advocacy of prosecuting skeptics of global warming with a Nuremberg-style war crimes trial. Gore has used the phrase "global warming deniers" to describe scientists and others who don't share his view of the Earth's climate. It remains to be seen what Gore and Moyers will have to say about proposals to make skepticism a crime comparable to Holocaust atrocities.

Sure. Once the erstwhile champions of "free-speech" on the Left can make it illegal to disagree with them they'll probably want to make any dissent from their orthodoxies punishable by firing squad. Joseph Stalin must be pleased.

Guns in School

Alan Gottleib and Dave Workman argue that greater efforts to restrict guns leads, counter, perhaps, to conventional opinion, perhaps, to more gun crime. They make a good case that the "gun-free zones" set up around schools are a farce. Such feel-good nostrums accomplish nothing more than to assure the psychopaths who roam the halls of every large public school in the nation that if they decide to go on a killing spree no one will be able to hinder them.

The allure of exerting total, unstoppable power over others is irresistable to certain twisted minds, and gun-free zone laws don't do anything to keep them from bringing weapons into schools to carry out their horrific fantasies. They only prevent school staff from being in a position to stop them once the carnage begins.

Anyone who smuggles a gun into a school can massacre students for a long time before police arrive, and despite all the precautions that schools take to prevent such tragedies there's really no practical way an unarmed staff can stop a student who wishes to murder his fellow students from actually doing it.

As a parent of a high school student I know I would feel better if I knew that at least some appropriate school personnel had been thoroughly trained in the use of firearms, particularly in a school environment, and were allowed to keep weapons, under lock but easily accessible, in the building. If they were the chances that someone would attempt, or succeed in an attempt, to perpetrate mass murder in the halls and lobbies of a school would be greatly diminished.

Some people will understandably blanche at the idea of having guns in school, but they're already there. Some schools have armed guards roaming their hallways and some have armed kids roaming the hallways. The question is not whether we will have guns in our schools - we already do. The question is who in the school do we want to have access to them.

Sartre's Intellectual Heirs

Waller Newell writes in The Weekly Standard that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was strongly influenced by an Iranian intellectual by the name of Ali Shariati and that Shariati, like the genocidal Cambodian Pol Pot, was strongly influenced by the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre and the Marxist Frantz Fanon:

The key figure here is the acknowledged intellectual godfather of the Iranian revolution, Ali Shariati. To understand Ahmadinejad's campaign to return to the purity of the revolution and why it leads him to flirt with nuclear Armageddon, it is necessary to understand Ali Shariati.

Ali Shariati (1933-1977) was an Iranian intellectual who studied comparative literature in Paris in the early 1960s and was influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon. He translated Sartre's major philosophical work, Being and Nothingness, into Farsi, and coauthored a translation of Fanon's famous revolutionary tract The Wretched of the Earth. Sartre and Fanon together were responsible for revitalizing Marxism by borrowing from Martin Heidegger's philosophy of existentialism, which stressed man's need to struggle against a purposeless bourgeois world in order to endow life with meaning through passionate commitment.

By lionizing revolutionary violence as a purifying catharsis that forces us to turn our backs on the bourgeois world, Sartre and Fanon hoped to rescue the downtrodden from the seduction of Western material prosperity. Fanon was even more important because he imported from Heidegger's philosophy a passionate commitment to the "destiny" of "the people," the longing for the lost purity of the premodern collective that had drawn Heidegger to National Socialism.

This potent brew of violent struggle and passionate commitment to a utopian vision of a collectivist past deeply influenced Ali Shariati, just as it had influenced another student in Paris a few years earlier, the Cambodian Pol Pot. Fanon in effect replaced the international proletariat of classical Marxism with the existentialist Volk of Heidegger's Nazi period, repudiating both liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninist politics as too materialistic. As applied in practice by the Khmer Rouge, this led to the bloodbath of 1975-1979 in which the cities of Cambodia were forcibly evacuated and the Cambodian people were purified of the taint of Western corruption by being reduced to a primitive collective of slave labor. Just as the the Jacobins had literally started the calendar over at the Year One, so Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, on assuming power, proclaimed the Year Zero.

Ali Shariati aimed to politicize the Shiite faith of his fellow Iranians with this same existentialist creed of revolutionary violence and purification. He sought to turn Shiism from pious hopes for a better world to come to the creation of a political utopia in the here and now.

What a legacy - Pol Pot and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One wonders whether Sartre and Fanon would be proud of their intellectual descendents. When people possess a passionate commitment to changing the world, the use of any means, including genocide, is justified if it produces the desired outcome. The only check on such fanaticism is the belief that such means are immoral, but for the existentialist and the Marxist there is no morality other than pragmatism. Whatever works to advance one's cause is right. Indeed, It was Karl Marx himself who wrote in the Communist Manifesto that "Communism abolishes all eternal truths, it abolishes all religion and all morality".

The only ideology or belief system that gives any grounds at all for believing that some means and ends are evil is the Judeo-Christian religion, but Sartre and Fanon, Pol Pot and Ahmadinejad all reject the moral teaching of the Judeo-Christian tradition root and branch. Thus we got the killing fields in Cambodia in the 1970s from Pol Pot and the threat of a nuclear holocaust in Israel today from Ahmadinejad. Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas in the minds of evil and powerful men often have catastrophic outcomes.

The 4% Panic Attack

A recent article in the New York Times by Laurie Goodstein calls attention to growing concern that evangelical Christianity is losing appeal among teens and frets that only 4% of today's teenagers will be conservative Christians as adults. Here are some excerpts from Goodstein's article:

At an unusual series of leadership meetings in 44 cities this fall, more than 6,000 pastors are hearing dire forecasts from some of the biggest names in the conservative evangelical movement.

Their alarm has been stoked by a highly suspect claim that if current trends continue, only 4 percent of teenagers will be "Bible-believing Christians" as adults. That would be a sharp decline compared with 35 percent of the current generation of baby boomers, and before that, 65 percent of the World War II generation.

While some critics say the statistics are greatly exaggerated (one evangelical magazine for youth ministers dubbed it "the 4 percent panic attack"), there is widespread consensus among evangelical leaders that they risk losing their teenagers.

Genuine alarm can be heard from Christian teenagers and youth pastors, who say they cannot compete against a pervasive culture of cynicism about religion, and the casual "hooking up" approach to sex so pervasive on MTV, on Web sites for teenagers and in hip-hop, rap and rock music. Divorced parents and dysfunctional families also lead some teenagers to avoid church entirely or to drift away.

Over and over in interviews, evangelical teenagers said they felt like a tiny, beleaguered minority in their schools and neighborhoods. They said they often felt alone in their struggles to live by their "Biblical values" by avoiding casual sex, risqu� music and videos, Internet pornography, alcohol and drugs.

That the Church is competing with enormously seductive rivals for the affections of its young people cannot be denied. That the pressures on teenagers to abandon their faith are high is obvious, but even so, to the extent that the statistics quoted in this article are accurate, and I'm not convinced they are, much of the responsibility for the decline in Christian commitment will lie at the door of the local church.

Too many local congregations, especially in "main-line" denominations, are unwilling to invest in their young people. They cannot see their way clear to make Christian education and Youth Ministry their top priorities. Any church today that allows finances to deter them from seeking out and hiring a full-time youth pastor savvy in contemporary culture, knowledgeable about the Bible, good at apologetics, talented on the guitar or keyboard, and who possesses a charismatic personality is essentially ceding their youth to the modern Zeitgeist.

It may be true that there aren't very many candidates such as I have described out there to be hired, but that's largely because churches haven't created the demand for such individuals. If the jobs were available, so, too, would be the talented young pastors to fill them. Moreover, the mainline congregations will find slim pickings if they search for candidates among their denominational seminary graduates. Mainline seminaries aren't churning out the kind of people, unfortunately, who are either adept at or inclined to nurture teens in their faith. Churches need to be willing to look outside their denominational plantations and seek candidates who grew up in independent or semi-independent churches and were themselves educated at schools which take the Bible and Christian faith seriously.

Nevertheless, despite the gloomy portents in the Times' article Christianity Today isn't too concerned. They think the statistics are overblown. I hope they're right.