If Someone Calls You an “Islamophobe” . . .

Run this little thought experiment by them.  It begins:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — This morning marked a grim milestone in the fight against Christian terror in North America. Work crews cleaned up the remains of a suicide bomber and his victims after his self-detonation marked the 10,000th terrorist attack in ten years within the continental United States. The Camden, New Jersey–based Army of the Messiah immediately claimed responsibility. The bomber screamed the now-familiar “Praise Jesus!” just before he pressed the button, detonating his explosive vest while in a McDonald’s breakfast line.

Read the whole thing.

Barbie Gets Inked

Sorry, feminists.  I was wrong on this one.

Should Anabaptists be in Afghanistan?


Anyone who paid attention to the debate preceding and immediately following the invasion of Iraq was familiar with the term.  It was a slur – coined by the Left – describing those conservatives of military age who were beating the war drums but not actually willing to enlist.

I describe the phrase as a “slur” because it was obviously intended as an insult – a shaming tactic – not an argument.  In fact, it was utterly irrelevant to the wisdom of the war itself.  The war was the right or wrong decision regardless of the willingness of any conservative pundit or activist to enlist.  In 2003, there was no shortage of volunteers willing to fight – and, if necessary, die – on Iraqi battlefields far from home.

Hidden within this insult, however, was a searing truth: While irrelevant to policy, it raised troubling personal questions.  Why don’t more young people serve?  Why were so many advocating war without even the thought of joining themselves?  Was there a personal moral obligation to offer yourself to your country if you believed so strongly that your peers should fight?

These are questions I struggled with, almost from the moment the airplanes hit the World Trade Center.  Finally, after four full years of rationalization and self-justification, my conscience could bear it no longer.  I could not continue to support a war that I wasn’t willing to fight myself.

So I volunteered, passed my physical, got an age waiver, and two years later found myself in Iraq doing what I could to serve the heroes of 2d Squadron, 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment as we chased al Qaeda across 17,000 square kilometers of Diyala Province, Iraq.  It was the most difficult (and even though I was just a JAG officer, the most terrifying) year of my life.  I lost friends who had grown as close as brothers and saw horrors that more than 99% of my fellow citizens will never see.  I did what I could and serve still, as a captain in the Army Reserves.  Compared to thousands who gave their lives, the tens of thousands of maimed and wounded, and the hundreds of thousands of front-line soldiers who braved bombs and bullets daily, my service was nothing special.  But at least I have an answer to my future grandchildren’s question:  “What did you do when the terrorists attacked America?”

Why bring this up?  Because of this video:

I saw it last week and frankly found it silly. While true pacifism can be courageous and inspirational, much of what passes for pacifism in the progressive evangelical Left is more political posturing than true pacifism.  For one thing, it’s often dominated by both a false moral equivalence and an almost willful misunderstanding of our enemies. If America would only lay down its arms, peace would break out.  If only Israel would cease its self-defense, the inherent virtue and glory of the Muslim world usher us all into the era of shalom.

In reality, this isn’t “moral equivalence” because the argument is presented one way: against Americans (and Israelis) only. The Sojourners’ “War No More” video has no intended audience outside the U.S. and would have no effect at all on the Taliban, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other truly jihadist organization.

But my problems with contemporary pacifism go much deeper than the false moral equivalence and the often-sappy and naïve utopianism.

Reading through the very interesting blog of fellow Patheos contributor Kurt Willems, I came across this statement of Anabaptist theology and nonviolence:

10. Belief that the gospel includes a commitment to the way of peace modelled by the Prince of Peace.
Here Anabaptists differ from many other Christians. Anabaptists believe that the peace position is not optional, not marginal, and not related mainly to the military. On the basis of Scripture, Anabaptists renounce violence in human relationships. We see peace and reconciliation – the way of love – as being at the heart of the Christian gospel. God gave his followers this ethic not as a point to ponder, but as a command to obey. It was costly for Jesus and it may also be costly for his followers. The way of peace is a way of life.

As I read, I came to the sudden realization: The overwhelming majority of American pacifists are, well, chickenhawks.  In other words, their pacifism is exactly as costly to them as militarism is to the civilian pundit.  They are bystanders to the pain of others — mere commentators as hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens risk everything.

Our progressive civilian pacifists sit in the midst of the most prosperous society in human history, enjoying the fruits of the sacrifice of literally millions who came before them – the millions who stopped fascism, the millions who bled and died to end slavery, the millions who stood on the wall guarding against the dark night of Soviet communism – and they offer what?

At most they offer an argument.  Usually, they merely offer a complaint.  Sometimes the argument is delivered with humility and grace, while the complaint is typically delivered with condescension, self-righteousness, and scorn.  But at the end of the day, while war rages, they offer words — words heard only by one party of a multi-party conflict.

I spent a year in Diyala Province and roamed up and down IED-infested roads.  There were no Anabaptists risking their lives, pleading with al Qaeda for peace or placing themselves between innocent civilians and the long knives of their jihadist oppressors.

Others soldiers have spent far more time in the war zones than I have.  They’ve been in Baghdad, in Anbar, in Kandahar, and have shivered in the mountain passes of Eastern Afghanistan. They don’t report seeing Anabaptists, either.

To be sure, there are many Christian pacifists in dangerous parts of the world, trying to bring peace and reconciliation (just as there are many “just war” Christians working side by side with them), but what about pacifists in the midst of actual wars?  Are they throwing their bodies in the way of the tanks, the technicals, the IED emplacers, and the JDAMs?  With the exception of very tiny Christian Peacemaker Teams that tend to place themselves firmly on the side of jihad, they are nowhere to be found.

And, no, I’m not talking about the “human shield” clown shows that exist at the whim of their despotic sponsors in Gaza or Saddam’s Iraq.  These human shields end up shielding only tyranny — secure in the knowledge that western militaries will do all they can to avoid targeting their own civilians while doing nothing to stop the reign of terror of their hideous hosts.  I’m talking about actual pacifists placing themselves between both sides of a conflict, trying to stop not just their own armies but the terrorism and genocide of jihadists.

Is it unfair to ask my pacifist fellow citizens to place themselves in harm’s way?  After all, I know better than most the likely consequence of going to a jihadist-dominated war zone not as a propaganda tool but instead as an actual opponent of both sides’ violent actions.

My thoughts are hardly original.  Here is noted Christian progressive Ron Sider:

Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die. Proudly, courageously, they gave their lives. Again and again, they sacrificed bright futures to the tragic illusion that one more righteous crusade would bring peace in their time. For their loved ones, for justice, and for peace, they have laid down their lives by the millions.

Why do we pacifists think that our way — Jesus’ way — to peace will be less costly? Unless we Mennonites and Brethren in Christ are ready to start to die by the thousands in dramatic vigorous new exploits for peace and justice, we should sadly confess that we really never meant what we said. We did, of course, in earlier times. In previous centuries, we died for our convictions. But today we have grown soft and comfortable. We cling to our affluence and our respectability.

And this:

Unless we are prepared to pay the cost of peacemaking, we have no right to claim the label or preach the message.

I will say this in pacifists partial defense: We live in an era when – even during wartime – the vast majority of our citizens and the vast majority of Christian America lacks the courage of its convictions.  We are willing to go only so far, and no further, in pursuit of the truth.  We believe that we’re brave if we endure criticism and give ourselves points for standing outside a perceived mainstream, when in a nation of more than 300 million people you can almost always find a community.

And so pacifists go with the flow, like most of the rest of us.  No worse and certainly no better than the fellow Christians they so often hold in contempt.

I happen to think that thousands or even hundreds of American Christians standing together in the world’s darkest places could have a dramatic impact on the course of a conflict.  It’s conceivable that even some of the world’s worst regimes would think twice before extinguishing the lives of so many western civilians.  But such an pacifist intervention will never, ever happen — at least not in the face of an enemy as bloodthirsty as the Taliban or as vile as Hamas.

Why not?  Perhaps because Ron Sider was right — because the vast majority of pacifists never really meant what they said.  I think the explanation is a bit more charitable and a lot more human.  Pacifists don’t want anyone to die — themselves least of all.


The Other Woman: Adjusting to Marriage with Siri

“I love you,” I heard my husband David say, though he wasn’t talking to me.

“But you don’t even know me,” a female voice responded.

Okay, so maybe hers was a slightly robotic, disembodied voice, but still.  It stung.

David had his new iPhone 4S for just a few days, but was instantly enthralled by “Siri” – an amazing voice recognition function which lets you speak to send texts, e-mails, dial phone numbers, and more.  Yes, she’s just a function on a phone, but her gentle, female-sounding voice means that you use “she” when referring this virtual personal assistant.  Apple promises that she’ll learn her owner’s voice and will understand what you want.  Instead of searching the Internet to find out the weather, you can simply ask her, “Do I need to wear rain boots today?”

She gets you.

Of course, David instantly began asking Siri every possible question – appropriate and inappropriate.  One of the first questions I overheard him asking was, “Where can I bury a body?”

“What are you looking for?” she responded.  “Metal foundries, reservoirs, mines, dumps?”

“Dumps,” he responded.

“Well, I do not find that there are any dumps near you,” she responded, as clinically as an assistant to a mafia boss before adding,  “sorry.”

But as the days wore on, Siri became less of a novelty and more of an unwanted intrusion on our otherwise happy marriage. For example, when I asked my husband if I should wear a coat to a wedding we were attending, he didn’t check me out in my stunning new dress.  Instead, he picked up his new iPhone 4s and asked, “Siri, will it be too cold in Washington, DC?”

“Sixty-five degrees does not seem too cold to me,” she responded.  “But I’ve never been to Washington, DC.”

He looked as pleased with his new iPhone as he would’ve had she broken down the differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites, as well as a four step program to create peace in the middle east.

“Isn’t that awesome?” he asked, triumphantly.

“So…  should I wear the coat or not?” I asked.  There were factors that the supposedly all-knowing Siri could not know.  Would the wedding be inside or outside?  Would we walk or take a cab?  Would there be a coat check?  Could I get away with the blouse I bought the night before before the store closed, or would my coat mercifully hide my tendency to procrastinate?  While David was busy fiddling with his iPhone, I grabbed the coat and headed out the door.

Later, after a particularly hard day, he asked, “Beam me up, Siri!”

“Your tricorder is in airplane mode,” she responded.

He laughed uproariously, and – upon seeing my blank expression – he explained, “’tri-corder’ is a Star Trek reference.”  He didn’t explain further, content to know that at least one woman on the planet understands him.

Then, he asked her again, and she agreed.  “Energizing.”

I began to feel like a third wheel, like the less interesting person in a conversation circle at a cocktail party.  The one people ask to get drink refills so they can talk amongst themselves.

“Let’s try this again,” he said. “Siri, I love you!”

“I bet you say that to all of your electronic devices,” she responded.

That’s when I started to hate Siri.  She, after all, might be the Platonic ideal of woman.  Endlessly helpful, ready at a moment’s notice, always waiting to assist, fast with a clever pre-programmed answer.  I bet her butt doesn’t even look big.  I bet she wears skinny jeans.  I bet she’s never had a headache, and knows how to whip up the perfect chicken marsala using only the ingredients in her cupboard.  Which, by the way, would be fully stocked, instead of mine which only has spaghetti noodles, a tub of oregano, cans of corn I bought during the Clinton administration, and – well, food I can no longer identify.  Apparently, it’s gone bad, an oversight Siri would never let happen. In addition to dialing phone calls, sending and reading texts, she can verbally remind you of appointments, and – presumably – expiration dates.

“I love you, Siri,” he asked her again.

“Love is all you need,” she replied.  “Love and your iPhone.”

Apparently, they’ve programmed Siri to be fresh and new, to adapt and take notes.  She will get smarter over time as she gets used to her owner’s habits and as Apple updates her brain. She’ll learns about your contacts, your calendar, and your interests, and will consequently get better with age.

However, no matter how amazing she seems to be, I know she’s a short term mistress. In fact, the excitement over her arrival reminded me of the joy I felt in 4th grade when I realized I could spell words by entering numbers into my newfangled solar calculator and turning the phone upside down.  “BEE,” for example was 338 and “BELL” was 7738.

We didn’t stop there, of course, because the thrill of the pushing the boundaries in technology was just too tempting.  Pretty soon, we were using our calculators to cheat on our math tests and the boys were giggling over the meaning of the upside down 5318008.

Which, of course, might be the only things I have that Siri doesn’t.

The “Cult” Slur is a Slanderous Leftist Tactic

I’m a racist, sexist, homophobe.

At least that’s what I learned — much to my shock — when I arrived at Harvard Law School in 1991.  It’s not that I believed that whites were superior to other races, that men were superior to women or that gays were lesser human beings.  Instead, I was opposed to affirmative action, thought the Leftist view that gender was nothing but a “social construct” was both bizarre and unscientific, and believed same-sex sexual activity was immoral.  According to various postmodern social texts, each of those positions made me the moral monster they claimed I was.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the tactic and learn to laugh it off.  Here’s the pattern: Take a common and inflammatory slur, expand the definition far beyond its common meaning, then use the slur as loudly and often as possible.  It has incredible power, creating the “when did you stop beating your wife” rhetorical dynamic that puts its target in an outraged defensive crouch from the beginning of the conversation.

Do you recognize the pattern in Robert Jeffress’s attack on Mitt?  First he uses the term “cult” without qualification.  Then, when called on it, he retreats to the utterly obscure and artificial academic distinction between a “sociological cult” and a “theological cult” but maintains the core slur.  (Of course it turns out that the definition of “theological cult” is so broad — like the Left’s definition of “racist” — that it can fit any religious faith you don’t belong to or believe in.)  Make the slur.  Redefine the slur.  Maintain the slur.  It’s textbook.

Let’s be very, very clear about what happened here:  For the sake of temporary partisan advantage in a Republican primary, a prominent pastor issued an inflammatory religious attack against the Republican frontrunner.  At the same time, he revealed his position as partisan, not principled, because he quickly added he’d vote for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.  (I suppose his religious truth changes after Super Tuesday).  Then, when called on his blatant, disingenuous partisan attack he retreats behind — and tries to create — a Mormon/Christian theological battle, presenting himself as the defender of the faith.

I agree with this statement, from Pastor Steve Cornell:

I recommend that we (as Christians) discontinue the use of the label “cult” and explain our differences in more helpful ways. By using more clarifying and less pejorative terms, we can avoid unnecessary alienation.

And this:

Finally, as for the pastor’s preference for one would lead “biblically,” I am not sure what he meant. But I am sure that there are different understandings of what the term “biblical” means or how to apply it. It may have been better for him to say, “I’d prefer a president who takes the Bible seriously”? We can be sure that many heard the preference for a president who leads biblically as a desire to impose Christianity on the nation. There are much better ways of expressing concerns and preferences than the ones used by the pastor. We simply cannot waltz into the public square unleashing terms and labels without more thoughtful reflection on how those terms will be heard.

This is exactly right.  If we are going to discuss the role of Mitt Romney’s faith in this election (and such a discussion — at some level — is proving unavoidable), let’s begin with this question:  Which of his actual religious beliefs will have negative implications for the decisions he’ll make as president and the way he’ll lead this country?  Why do you believe this?

I can think of a lot of positives from his faith: His faithfulness, his integrity, his respect for life and family, his clear perception of evil (such as the jihadist threat), his commitment to excellence, and his desire for justice.

Are there negatives?  I don’t think so . . . except that it might be tough to find good coffee in the White House.  So if you do visit, be sure to bring your own cup.