Thursday, February 18, 2010

Assassination in Dubai

Those readers who enjoy spy thrillers might find this video, courtesy of Hot Air, hard to turn off. A week or so ago a report out of Dubai revealed that a high ranking Hamas official who was wanted by the Israelis for the kidnap and murder in 1989 of two Israeli soldiers was himself found murdered in his hotel room. The Dubai state security immediately pieced together how the assassination was carried out, and using surveillance tapes they were able to elucidate an extremely elaborate and well-planned operation involving at least eleven people. There is no proof that the perpetrators were Israelis but the Dubai police assume that they are.

If you don't care to watch the video you can read the account of what it shows here.

There are some very strange details in this video. Here's one: The victim was found by hotel personnel dead in his room which was locked from the inside. How did the assassins leave the room locked from the inside?


How Christian Were the Founders?

The New York Times Magazine has a piece by Russell Shorto on the perennial question of how Christian were America's founders. I'm not sure that the essay really addresses that question decisively - the discussion of the founders is set in the context of the battle over what our nation's history books should include about them - but it nevertheless covers some interesting ground. It's a little long, but those interested in the role of Christianity in the history of our founding, or in the modern textbook controversies, will find it worthwhile.

At one point Shorto quotes historian Richard Brookhiser who says that, "The founders were not as Christian as [many Christians] would like them to be, though they weren't as secularist as [atheists like] Christopher Hitchens would like them to be."

That's probably true, but I think it misses the point. I don't think the question is how Christian the founders themselves were but rather to what extent were the principles upon which they based their concepts of equality, freedom, and justice informed by the Christian philosophical and theological consensus and tradition in which they were immersed.

I think it's very hard to read the early documents, or even works that come later like Tocqueville's Democracy in America, without arriving at the conclusion that whether the founders were themselves Christian, and some clearly were not, they had been deeply influenced in their thinking by people who were.

In other words, not all of those who signed the Declaration of Independence, wrote the Constitution, and led us into the 19th century were Christians (although they were almost all theists), but their ideas about what a just state should be they absorbed from a Judeo-Christian tradition and culture. Those ideas, as Tocqueville suggests, would never have emerged in a society of people who did not believe in the God of the New Testament.