Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of sex-selective abortion, particularly in China and India where families want sons and so get an abortion if their in utero baby is a girl.  This even has acquired a name, something to add to our vocabulary:  gendercide.

Mollie (I can call her that because I know her) cites a story in The Christian Science Monitor about the consequences of wiping out so many females in the population.  It features a farmer in India lamenting that he can’t find a wife to marry.  Mollie tells about how he is “lamenting that he no longer cares about caste, religion or looks — he just wants a wife to give him a son. Funny, isn’t it. It’s hard to find a wife to give you a son when the people of your country are killing so many of the unborn female children because they’re not sons.”

via The war on girls » GetReligion.

Germany is fed-up

Germany has played nice since the end of World War II, trying to expiate its guilt by pushing for the European Union, sacrificing the solid Deutschmark for the ups and downs of the Euro, and using its strong economy to bail out other European countries.  But what is happening in Greece is causing Germans to say, “enough.”  So reports Anne Applebaum:

“Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks — and the Acropolis too!”

– headline, Bild newspaper, March 4

Sometimes they cut to the essence of the story, those tabloid-headline writers, even when they haven’t got the quotation exactly right. What the German politician quoted in the Bild article cited above actually said was: “A bankrupt party must use everything he has to make money and serve his creditors. . . . Greece owns buildings, companies and several uninhabited islands, which can now be used to repay debt.”

What the politician meant, though, was more accurately reflected in that Bild headline: The Germans are fed up with paying the bills of everybody in Europe, they don’t want to bail out the feckless Greeks with their flagrantly inaccurate official statistics, they resent being Europe’s banker of last resort, they object to the universal demand that they plug the vast holes in the Greek deficit in the name of “European unity” — and for the first time in a long time they are saying this out loud. Not only are tabloids demanding the sale of the Acropolis; Germany’s deeply serious paper of record, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has pointed out that while the Greeks are out protesting having to raise their pension eligibility age from 61 to 63, Germany recently raised its pension age from 65 to 67: “Does that mean that the Germans should in future extend the working age from 67 to 69, so that Greeks can enjoy their retirement?”

With an unerringly poor sense of timing, the Greeks have, in response, chosen this moment to flaunt their own resentments. One Greek minister complained to the BBC that the Nazis “took away the Greek gold that was in the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back.” The mayor of Athens has demanded 70 billion euros (about $95 billion) for the damage the Nazis left behind after the war. The Greek consumer organization, not exactly thankful for the German bailout or Europe’s demands for Greek budget cuts, has called for a boycott of German products. Officially, the Germans have described these comments as “not helpful.” Unofficially, the German press is foaming at the mouth (see above), for once accurately reflecting the views of German politicians and German voters.

via Anne Applebaum – Germany’s tug-of-war with Greece –

Totalitarian envy

Steven Mufson and John Pomfret have an article in the Washington Post about how China seems to be doing everything right and leaving the USA behind:

With the American economy struggling and the political system in gridlock, there is one thing everyone in Washington seems to agree on: The Chinese do it better.

Cyberspace? China has an army of hackers ready to read your most intimate e-mails and spy on corporations and super-secret government agencies. (Just ask Google.) Education? China is churning out engineers almost as fast as it's making toys. Military prowess? China is catching up, so quickly that it is about to deploy an anti-ship ballistic missile that could make life on a U.S. aircraft carrier a perilous affair. The economy? China has gone from cheap-clothing-maker to America’s banker. Governance? At least they can build a high-speed train. And energy? Look out, Red China is going green!

This new Red Scare says a lot about America’s collective psyche at this moment. A nation with a per capita income of $6,546 — ensconced above Ukraine and below Namibia, according to the International Monetary Fund — is putting the fear of God, or Mao, into our hearts.

Here’s our commander in chief, President Obama, talking about clean energy this month: “Countries like China are moving even faster. . . . I’m not going to settle for a situation where the United States comes in second place or third place or fourth place in what will be the most important economic engine in the future.”

And the nation’s pundit in chief, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, even sees some virtue in the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on political power: “One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages.”

via There’s a new Red Scare. But is China really so scary? –

The article goes on to point out China’s many problems, concluding that China is not the threat or the model that many Americans assume.  What haunts me, though, is Thomas Friedman’s belief that autocracy has advantages if the leaders are “enlightened.”  (Also his belief that the Chinese communists are “reasonably enlightened.”)  That mindset, along with the envy and admiration for the Chinese version of communism (market reforms and economic progress under state control of the society), will, if it spreads, mark the end of the American experiment. (This ties to the post below.)

The God gap in U.S. foreign policy

According to a new report received by the White House, American foreign policy is hindered by its secularism and needs to factor religious issues into its dealings with other countries:

American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The council’s 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious “capabilities gap” and recommends that President Obama make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy.”. . .

American foreign policy’s “God gap” has been noted in recent years by others, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.”

The Chicago Council’s task force was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. “Religion,” the task force says, “is pivotal to the fate” of such nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, all vital to U.S. national and global security.

“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.” Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.

U.S. officials have made efforts to address the God gap, especially in dealings with Islamic nations and groups. The CIA established an office of political Islam in the mid-1980s. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 to make religious freedom a U.S. foreign policy priority. During the second Bush administration, the Defense Department rewrote the Army’s counterinsurgency manual to take account of cultural factors, including religion. . . .

To end the “episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world,” the task force recommended:

– Adding religion to the training and continuing education of all foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. That includes using the skills and expertise of military veterans and civilians returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

– Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

– Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy. Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.

via ‘God gap’ impedes U.S. foreign policy, task force says –

But how would this work? I just read a report about a high-level dialogue between representatives of the West and moderate Muslims. They established the common ground of a desire for freedom of religion. To the Westerners, that means the freedom of individuals to hold any religion they want. But to the Muslims, freedom of religion means the freedom of Muslims to establish an Islamic state.

Any push for freedom of religion in our sense will have to involve supporting Christians against those who suppress them. Christians, you will notice, tend to allow freedom of other religions. Other religions, when they are in control, are not so generous.

Will our government want to come across as advancing the interests of Christianity?

Major battle in Afghanistan

If you haven’t heard, U.S., allied, and Afghan national troops are engaged in a major, large-scale operation in Afghanistan, attacking the region in which the  Taliban are at their greatest strength.

U.S. launches major surge against Taliban in Afghanistan –

Religion and politics in Haiti

I am not for a minute condoning the Evangelical, Catholic, and Voodoo interfaith services, nor am I agreeing that Haiti’s earthquake was divine punishment against its government. But in the aftermath of the earthquake, it appears that Haitians are in a mood to cast off their notoriously corrupt government leaders:

Reeling from the earthquake that devastated their country one month ago, Haitians have turned to their vivid and sometimes quirky spiritual life in a search not only for consolation but also for an explanation of why such a catastrophe was visited upon them.

The depth and breadth of Haiti’s spirituality was put on display Friday, the first of three days of mourning decreed by the government of President René Préval. In the largest of many such gatherings, thousands of people gathered on the Champ de Mars, a broad esplanade in front of the collapsed National Palace, to pray, sing religious songs and listen to Roman Catholic, Protestant and voodoo preachers in a government-organized memorial service for the more than 200,000 killed.

“Everybody is praying together — Catholics, Protestants and voodoo believers,” said Joseph Ardouin Dubois, an evangelical Protestant who attended the service with his New Testament in hand. “There is only one God.”

But in the crowd pressing toward the stage, and among the nearby tents and plastic shelters where homeless families by the thousands have taken refuge, many blamed the Jan. 12 quake on the government, saying Haiti’s leadership was evil because it ignored spirituality and refused to grant a higher minimum wage to the poor.

The sentiments, freely expressed, suggested that political repercussions from the earthquake could extend beyond the immediate question of whether Préval and his government are effectively presiding over relief efforts.

“If this tragedy has befallen Haiti, it is because our leaders, our politicians, are not spiritual people,” said Pastor Vladimir Justal, 34, an evangelical minister who walked among the tents in a white linen suit. “They have no religion.”

“They are pagans, that’s what they are,” said a teenager standing nearby.

“Yes, that’s it,” Justal agreed. “We are going to ask God to give us spiritual men to lead us. Otherwise, we are heading for another catastrophe.”