12/29/18

An Interview with Boyd Cathey: Part 2

A Discussion with Dr. Boyd Cathey on his new book "The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage." Cathey discusses the Southern Poverty Law Center, Western Movies, and having hope.


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12/11/18

"The Land We Love" by Boyd Cathey, a Review

By: Jonathan Harris

Dr. Boyd D. Cathey, a first-rate scholar whose expertise ranges from European and Southern history to philosophy, religion, and music has finally published an anthology of his “greatest hits” in “The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage.” Essays on traditional conservatism, Southern culture, Western heritage, as well as movies and books fill up the 44 chapters of this intellectual gold mine. To say Cathey has been around the block, when it comes to Southern conservatism, is an understatement. Cathey was a personal assistant to Russell Kirk, an editor of Southern Partisan, and has filled multiple positions in the North Carolina Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Included in this wonderful work is Cathey’s widely circulated expose of Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center—an action that got him blacklisted when the “anti-hate” group focused their guns on him. Dr. Cathey’s explanation and understanding of neo-conservatism is worth the price of the book itself. Of course, Cathey also defends his homeland, the South and North Carolina, from progressive attempts to remake it; especially against the purging of all things Confederate. Standing with Robert E. Lee, Robert Lewis Dabney, and Mel Bradford; and against Abraham Lincoln, Victor Davis Hanson, and Dinesh D’Souza is Boyd Cathey.

Personal stories, intellectual essays, religious meditations, and even an interview with Eugene Genovese make “The Land We Love” stand the test of time. From 1983 to 2018 Dr. Cathey has faithfully interpreted and defended his place of birth. It turns out that loving “home” is not for the fainthearted, a charge Boyd D. Cathey will never be accused of.

12/4/18

A Compassionate Argument for a Strict Border Part 2: Incentives

By: David Harris

In the previous installment we looked at the some of the issues that arise for immigrants to the US when assimilation does not take place. In this installment we will further develop the idea that strict border policy is 1) more compassionate than loose policy and that 2) incentive is the key to understanding this.

Let's consider the incentive to
illegal immigration specifically. Why is the border policy advocated by those on the left cruel to illegal immigrants? It’s not just because illegals are afraid to use public services (they do, especially in sanctuary cities/states), it’s not just because of the risk they take in “sneaking in.” It’s because those advocating a less strict border policy generally don’t actually care about the people 1) who already live in the US or 2) those in other nations desiring to come here. How do we know?  

It’s actually very simple when you turn off the emotional overdrive for 5 seconds. Let me break it down: Immigrants who come to the US are not the poorest of the poor. We know this because they are able bodied enough to migrate, work and often travel back and forth between two countries. The extremely poor and sick are not able to move from where they are, and thus must be helped where they are. This can be done 3 ways: 1) a migrant comes to the US, works and sends money home; 2) people from the US or other more wealthy nations send money or go and personally assist the poor and needy themselves or 3) the situation in that country improves and people are less incentivized to leave. When the US government relaxes border policy it follows that an incentive to physically abandon a nation is created – those who cross the border illegally may be responsible for breaking US law in coming the way they do, but they are not responsible for the incentive that was created by the relaxed law, sanctuary cities and worst of all, entitlements that destroy personal industry. We typically only hear how illegal immigration hurts US citizens, but if we really cared about all people, we’d also talk about how it damages the illegals themselves, and worse, their countries of origin.

Once someone comes across, they are often separated from their family for long periods of time – often leading to a breakdown of the family structure. Marriages destroyed, children growing up with profound insecurity (I would know, I work with these families). But worse than that, the incentive to leave the mother nation means that there’s no incentive to stay and try to improve the situation there – “staying’s worse than leaving.” No argument has to be made for the problem of criminals coming to the US illegally, but what about the consequence of drawing productive members of society who now will never improve their own? You should be able to see that incentivizing for example, an El Salvadorian to come to the US illegally, has nothing to do with compassion for the people of El Salvador. Furthermore, it’s well known and observed that the multi-cultural “culture” of nations like the US render the cultures of immigrant children after two or three generations to be little more than a smattering of words from the first language and a few “ethnic” recipes, and therefore is culturally destructive (NOTE: I’m not arguing that this is a bad thing, but it would/should be for an ardent and honest multiculturalist).

Again, this is not necessarily meant to blame those who come – those who want to work hard to make a better life for their family should be respected, but would it not be more desirable for the immigrant to be able to stay in the country that he/she loves, if possible? Many, possibly most immigrants would prefer to stay in their countries (after all, many choose to keep displaying the flag of their home country when they make their home here) – their homeland is the place they’ve been born into, their grandparents were born into, that represents their culture, etc. – the land and culture are immensely important. Why incentivize individuals from other countries to come to this one and call it “compassion?” It’s hard to think of something less compassionate than to incentivize people with free stuff (sanctuary cities, entitlements, etc.) to abandon their struggling country for another one, the only benefit to the mother country being money sent home to family still in that country.

As the impact of illegal immigration on US citizens and those trying to come to the US legally is usually the focal point of conservative narratives on immigration in general, there is little point in reviewing them. The fixes to this broken system are fairly simple– build the wall, enforce immigration laws and most of all, and terminate entitlements, especially for “undocumented immigrants.” Enacting these polices would be good for those living and coming to the US, but as indicated above, they would also benefit those currently incentivized to come to the US illegally. In the next installment we’ll consider ways to show legitimate compassion to immigrants, both legal and illegal.

A Short Review of Every Good Endevour by Tim Keller

By: Jonathan Harris

It's a bit difficult to review this book and here's why: Keller says a lot of good things, but he also says some bad things. The good things he says are not unique to him at all. In fact, others have said them much better. Nancy Pearcey does does a much better job explaining the issue of compartmentalization (the sacred/profane distinction). I would recommend her book "Total Truth," five days of the week and twice on Sunday before recommending "Every Good Endeavor." In fact, I cannot see myself ever recommending "Every Good Endeavor." Keller's progressive leanings subtly infiltrate his message far too often. Having said this, I still think there's a lot of good that can come from this book.

I'll start with the positive. The best thing about this book is Keller's characterization of the Christian worldview as a story. It is not a top down ideological system (though it has elements of this, it is more than this). Unfortunately, Keller, after presenting this goes on later in the book to contrast a "Christian Worldview" with love and human flourishing. It's almost like he forgot about his own definition. A Christian worldview should flow from the story of God's love. Ok, so that did not sound very positive. Let me try again. There's a lot of good in this book in regard to destroying the idea that a job should be for the pursuit of idols instead of the pursuit of God's purposes. In fact, purpose is found when aligning oneself with God. This is all good. At least half the book focuses on this point.

Here's the rub. Keller is not much of a sophisticated intellectual (if this book is any indication), which is absolutely fine. The problem is he seems to fancy himself one. The categorical errors he makes expose him. For one thing Keller confuses the standards that ought to be in place for individuals with the standards that ought to be in place for organizations. Are people held to the same standards as corporations in a moral sense? Keller seems to think so, at least he navigates paragraphs that way. He'll be talking about Murdock and a company making money as a prime reason for existence and an example of idolatry while praising Hershey's benevolence. There's an apples and oranges problem here. Murdock could/should have a personal purpose for his company that connects with divine principles. This does not mean the corporation itself does not have the purpose of making a profit. In fact, without making a profit all the employees are out of a job. This does not help human flourishing (a phrase Keller loves but does not seem to want to define very clearly). Could not Hershey be paying employees to build an amusement park or give charitably out of a personal idol that longs for the praise of man etc.? Of course, but Keller seems to save his harshness for what most see as the excesses of capitalism.

He talks about "sociological idols." This is a modern idea very difficult to find in Scripture. Idols come from individual hearts. There can be a whole lot of individuals with the same idol, but they are still individual issues with spiritual solutions. He also goes as far as to say "family" can be an idol in a discussion on Christian conservatives withdrawing from the enjoyment of entertainment choices from the world. Yes, it can. But so can anything. Why pick on that particular thing, which in a rightly ordered universe should be a legitimate concern? Why are non-Christians praised for helping human flourishing etc.? They're engaged in idolatry as well, by definition. It's strange.

Keller's discussion of cultural engagement is borderline terrible. He says there are always idols and always aspects of redemption in every piece of art because of common grace. Scripture does not use this kind of language though. Scripture does not apply the image of God to pornography. There's a problem here. There is art that is objectively evil and art that objectively good. The Scriptures are obviously objectively good. Our problem as humans is a problem of recognition. We are limited and can't always see how God sees. But, to make an argument for an "eat the meat, spit out the bones" type of lifestyle is dangerous. Most art in the modern age compromises one's soul. Yes, someone may be using God-given skills (to spit in His face), but that's not really the point is it?

Ok, so Keller conflated individual and corporate responsibility/purpose, and potentially gave some license to engage in tempting forms of entertainment. Is that such a big deal? I mean, it's not the end of the world if the reader has discernment. But a discerning reader should be able to find the useful information in this book from other places. A little on the capitalism thing, since it sticks in my craw---Without a synthesis that marries cost/benefit and the well-being of the community (two things Keller juxtaposes) there will be no human flourishing. Making a profit is not a bad thing. I don't think Keller would go as far as to say that it is, but he approaches the cliff and seems to peer over the edge. Companies and individuals both need to be in the red. This is actually what helps them take care of others (Eph 4:28).

Back to Keller's perceived sophistication. The whole worldview analysis thing is weird. Keller tries to tie specific idols to three different worldviews (traditional, modernist, and post modernist). Of course traditionalists get to take responsibility for the racists. No shock there. Even though, anyone with a scintilla of historical understanding knows modernists and postmodernists have the same issues. In fact, that's where his whole model seems to break down. The same idols that have always plagued humans are reintroduced in different forms but they always remain (i.e. Dianna the temple goddess and pornography). None are unique to a different time period/world view. Keller compares the Christian story to these three worldviews. The issue here is that it's such an oversimplification it becomes a cartoon. Traditional worldviews are vast and varied (He talks about Asian cultures too?). Modernist and Post Modernist values are worldviews that make sense in the Western context, but are ideological and not traditional. They belong in a separate category. It's just unusual.

This book is written on a lower highschool level. Keller uses language common to a lot of pop Christian publishing endeavors. For instance, instead of saying "The enlightenment," he'll say, "This thing called the enlightenment." It's a bit overly simplistic, but feels like he's oddly talking down (This is probably where I got the impression he thought himself sophisticated. Well, that and trying to tackle Greek thought and worldview analysis in the manner he seems too). Keller overuses "human flourishing" and "love" without providing great Christian definitions for what he's talking about. This is an opportunity for readers with other worldviews to smuggle in their own concepts about what those things mean.

The end of the matter is this: Keller seems to be writing to postmodernists who are disenfranchised with modernism and capitalism in particular. He's writing from NYC. Once this is understood the whole thing makes sense. He's catering to the perceived needs of people around him. He's making a Christian worldview a palatable escape hatch from modernity. The issue here is that there's really not much about the Lordship of Christ. That ought to be the emphasis, but it's really not. Yes, there's a few verses here and there, but not what one would expect at all. Those coming to Christianity for the benefits will read this and perhaps love it. Maybe some will be saved as a result (that's my hope). But it's the wrong draw card to use. The beauty of, Lordship of, power of, etc. of Christ must be the draw card. Sin is also a disgusting pile of dung, not merely an impediment to "human flourishing." I'm not sure why anyone would flee to the Savior because they wanted to flourish in this life. It's not much of a rallying cry.

12/3/18

The Benedict Option: A Short Review

By: Jonathan Harris

So here's the uncomplicated, obvious, and simple strategy for Christian cultural renewal (the author admits this): Live like a Christian. That's it.

A reader may be wondering, "Why wonder my way through an entire book to tell me that?" The reason is that Rod Dreher has an accurate pessimism when it comes to the state of affairs in modern Christianity. Most professing Christians have completely lost any sense of integrating their faith with their life. They passively accept whatever the culture throws at them ethically, technologically, and artistically.

To be fair, Dreher fleshes out his strategy a little more. The Benedictine order has something to do with his premise. He thinks we can learn something from the life of a Christian monk. We can. But, we must be very, and I mean, very, careful here. I would never recommend this book to someone unless I was completely assured that their level of discernment was high. Dreher makes some excellent points (mainly in his critique of modernity), but also says some potentially harmful things.

Here are some of his better points: Toward the beginning he offers a jet-tour through Western civilization and, much like Richard Weaver, blames nominalism for our current cultural ills. He's right about all this. His section on technology at the end is great. We are addicted. It's sucking our humanity away. Monks definitely don't have the same problems (it helps when you give it up!). Dreher endorses the classical school model. More kudos coming from me. In addition, he suggests a life of prayer and reflection. These are lost disciplines, and yes, they need to be rekindled. There are more things the author says but these are the main take aways in my opinion.

Now on to the dangerous stuff: The greatest issue I see is Dreher's endorsement of "mere Christianity." Not the book, but the movement. He sees denominational barriers as a problem. We ought to have fellowship (Catholics, Orthodox, evangelicals, etc.) around the fact that we hold some basic truths and the secular world is persecuting us for them. This is a slippery slope. Scratch that, it's a leap off a cliff. The gospel must be the basis for any kind of fellowship. There is no Christian fellowship outside of it no matter how many common enemies or beliefs we may share. I'd be curious if Dreher invites Mormons into this sphere? He actually gives praise to the Mormon's sense of community while distancing himself from their theology. I don't think Dreher is thinking two steps ahead on where this kind of stuff eventually goes.

There is much more than can be said, but everything else is of lesser consequence. This may be a good book for someone interested in navigating technology and education in the modern age. Even then I think there are better books. This book is not revolutionary and eventually even Dreher's strategies are unlikely to work completely. He hints at a principled pluralism. I'm not sure if he'd ever use the term but the bottom line is that a secular government if left unchecked will not allow Christians to carve out these Benedictine "safe spaces." Still, Dreher makes some good points that are worthy of being heard. One of them I was already pondering, but he reinforced, was the need to incorporate liturgy in personal and church life. I think most of his good points Nancy Pearcey made in "Total Truth." If you read Francis Schaeffer sprinkled in with Neil Postman there's really no reason to read "The Benedict Option."

12/2/18

A Few Thoughts on Hillbilly Elegy

By: Jonathan Harris


Overall, this is a good book. It's not necessarily an entertaining one though. J.D. Vance does a great job narrating, to the point that you feel like you are with him in his stories. However, the stories are not always so nice. Vance describes a world of honor, bravery, and patriotism, but also of drugs, abuse, and poverty.

Here are a few good things about this book.

1. It sticks a needle in the eye of identity politics. The myth of "white privilege" completely disintegrates. It's not J.D.'s point to get overtly political. He's just telling his story, but his story does not comport with the concept of systematic racism or white privilege.

2. J.D. has a lot of optimism and hope. He is not writing as one who gripes about his family or culture. He is proud of where he came from though he can see the flaws in "Hillbilly" folk ways. Vance's solutions are not government solutions. He cares for his people, and he knows they can achieve more stability. He's not the savior lighting the way, but he is the humble example of what can happen when other's help.

3. It focuses on a marginalized culture often left out of mainstream discussions. Awareness is raised.

4.  This was written before President Trump was elected, but it explains perfectly why people elected him. Again, Vance isn't trying to write a political book, it just so happens that his story intersects with political questions. How can a professing Christian vote for a guy who has had all the affairs Trump has had etc.? Here's your answer.

Here are a few not so good things.

1. There's a lot of language. I mean F-bombs, etc. throughout the entire book. Vance's point is to make things as real as possible, but he goes a little overboard. Sometimes it's unnecessary. If it were a movie I likely would not watch it. For the purposes of study I was able to get through, but found the language annoying at times.

2. Vance's portrayal of hillbilly culture is accurate to a point. He is reading a culture through his experience. They are the descendants of Scotch-Irish mountain dwellers who spread out over the Midwest and upper South. I'm fairly skeptical that Vance's experience is the experience of all hillbillies. Northern Kentucky and Ohio are going to be different than Western North Carolina and Ozark mountain dwellers. In the same way, many of the issues Vance describes can be applied to western New Yorkers. My own experience as a repairman in upstate New York, Connecticut, and both Carolinas is what makes me a little bit skeptical. I feel as though I've met exactly who Vance describes in every place (perhaps not as much in CT) I've worked. I've also met the more committed church-going straight and narrow types as well. The rust belt and Appalachia, as well as the Deep South, contain mixes of Dale Earnheardts and Jeff Gordans, Hank Williams Jr.'s and Alan Jacksons. The people who indwell these regions are usually somewhere between "raising hell and amazing grace" to quote a Big and Rich album. Vance seemed to have been in an area, and in a family, that were a little more on the raising hell side of things. It's his story so this is not a bad thing, it just needs to be understood.

3. In Vance's sociological I wish there was a little more about the effect of modernity, Reconstruction, etc. This is because I have the history bug. Vance was under no obligation to do this, I know I would have wanted to insert something about how historically hillbillies got to the point they're at now. What happens when you break the pride of "dueling culture" through war, outsourcing, and persecution? (i.e. the War Between the States, Factories shutting down/poverty, and anti-Christian and anti-Southern rhetoric). What happens when a culture that takes pride in family names is now more confused genealogically, through hanky panky etc.,  than they ever have been? Sure these things are their own fault. Vance is right about that, but how did they get here? That's a story for another book perhaps. Oftentimes, the Great Society is blamed for the demise of the black family. It would be a true statement to say, "The black family collapsed because of internal moral failings." It would also be true to say, "The Great Society had something to do with it." Both are true in this case as well.

I would still recommend the book for those who want to understand how Donald Trump came to be where he is (his mother is Scottish you know), or what kinds of real solutions impoverished people need. (Hint: They don't come from the government).

12/1/18

Gay Girl, Good God: A Short Review

By: Jonathan Harris

The title makes it sound like it's for "Gay Christianity," but it's not. This is a great story of deliverance from homosexuality. It's a story, not a book on homosexuality specifically. It's also more descriptive than the standard fare popular Christian publishers are cranking out these days.

I would recommend with two cautions.

The first caution is this: Make sure you do not fall into the trap of thinking Jackie Hill Perry is a spiritual guru. She's not. This is the story of a layperson, and it's a good one. It glorifies God and the gospel. However, Perry is no theologian. She's very correct about the power of the gospel, but she's also on the social justice train when it comes to cultural Marxism. None of that comes out in this book. Her story though is what informs her. What God did in delivering her is very real. She's not writing a theology though. Someone could easily read this and use her story to justify her theology rather than using theology to justify her story. None of this takes away from the point she makes in the book. It's valid. But, in an age of celebrity preachers and spiritual gurus this needs to be said.

The second caution is this: Toward the end of the book Perry talks about "the gospel of heterosexuality." Much of what she said is true. Yes, there are Christians who have assumed the gospel is meant to make gays straight, etc. The problem is that Perry reads her perception through the lens of her experience. She seems to universalize her experience toward the end by saying "the church" has this issue. Well, perhaps in some quarters, but overall it would be very difficult to find sources to back up such a claim other than personal experiences, etc. Mainstream Christian ministries have not been known to crank out anything remotely similar to what Perry calls "the gospel of heterosexuality." The only concern I have is that people from the "let's hate the church" crowd could easily use what she said and perhaps take it farther than she even does. The fact is, the gospel should order our desires which includes making someone with same sex desires someone who now is attracted exclusively to those of the opposite sex. That's not a bad thing. It's a healthy thing. Perry makes a separation where there should not be one. It's not either/or. It's both/and. It's not either Jesus or straightness as a pursuit. Homosexuals who want to be Christians should pursue Jesus and in pursuing him pursue ordered desires.

This all being said, again, I recommend this. It's a great antidote in the pop Christian world to books like "Single, Gay, Christian." It's a great story of redemption. 

11/15/18

A Compassionate Argument for a Strict Border Part 1: Assimilation

By: David Harris

A heartwrenching scene: a young child stands with his hands wrapped around the bars of a small and constrictive cage. He sobs because he has been separated from his mother and father, they being placed in another detention camp, possibly hundreds of miles away. It is indeed a shocking sight – except it’s not real. It was taken at a leftist political demonstration to protest Trump’s border policy – it doesn’t reflect reality in the way that the tweeters wish it to. Again, a series of photos surface showing children being kept in larger chain link “cages” of sorts – the outrage is immediate and loud. The Trump Administration must answer for these crimes! Except the photos were taken in 2014 – during the Obama Administration, and demonstrate policy in place from that administration to this point – the outrage shifts, but does not silence or even lower in volume. Why? Because the President is racist, xenophobic, etc., and the laws he and some of the more hardline supporters of a secure border are the outflow of this racism and xenophobia. At least that’s what an alien in a distant universe might think if they only are able to intercept intergalactic radio waves carrying virtually any major news source.

We should be smart about how and when we are outraged by something. This was true during the Obama years and every previous government administrations from the beginning of time, and it’s still true today. That being said, it’s incredibly sad to see so many people being “straight up duped” by what they read and hear through the media into counterfeit outrage that acts like a drug in their system, convincing them even more that they’re right and everyone who disagrees with them is not only deathly wrong but also evil. It’s even sadder when there are throngs of among the outraged masses thinking that their outrage is somehow justified by a moral, biblical perspective because in their minds they are “supporting justice,” “standing up for the downtrodden,” or “welcoming the sojourner.” If you are one of these outraged, this piece is for you. While I don’t want you to be unnecessarily offended, if you are, then it is necessary – my hope is to bring true, actual compassion and charity to an issue that many are using as an excuse to metaphorically beat other Americans over the head for “not being compassionate.” My thesis is straightforward: a stricter border policy for the United States is far more compassionate than a loose and lax one. I will make this argument through several lines of reasoning, but I should fully disclose that I am coming from a biblical perspective, one that values above all things treating others “how they would want to be treated.” If my reasoning seems cold at times it is only because I am following logical conclusions to get to what is most important: the truth of how to best serve, love and protect our fellow man because they are made in the image and likeness of God.

So let’s get specific: it is very much in vogue among certain circles of the “values voters” and the evangelical community to stand in opposition to stricter border policy with the reasoning that these policies (secure border, selective immigration, etc.) are innately racist and/or do not reflect the biblical principle of “welcoming the sojourner.” While the interest in caring for those of other lands in less than desirable economic/political/cultural conditions is admirable, there is no moral high ground to be had by opposing secure border policy. In fact, if one peels back the emotional layers, opposing a secure border and stricter immigration policy is downright cruel. Why? There are many reasons. I want to deal with two, both dealing with the idea of incentive in these two categories: 1) incentive for immigrants to come to the US, and 2) incentive for US citizens to care for those of other nations.

Before directly discussing incentive, I want to examine the question of why migrants come to the US in general (legally and illegally). Why do people leave their place of birth, life and root to come to a new place? Population movements throughout history have occurred for any number of reasons (many times being forced), but the overwhelming incentive for those coming to US as of now must be chiefly economic opportunity – with a far smaller percentage for reasons related to freedom of speech, expression and association. What does this mean? From an economic standpoint this is fairly straightforward: unemployment almost demands immigration – this is what happens when an economy thrives. In fact, with the lack of skilled laborers in the US at this time, labor pools from other nations will have to be tapped into, as other nations do throughout the world (If you want proof of this, look on a website for a country that is actively searching for immigrants like New Zealand – there are incentives and jobs to be had, but only to those with specific skills). While there is fear that migrants could “steal” jobs from Americans, the fear subsides with low unemployment, a resulting factor of lower taxes and regulation. By this train of economic reasoning (which, I might add is also founded on the biblical principles of private property and the command “thou shall not steal”), the economic policies of redistribution, high taxes and high regulation actually lead directly to ant-immigration sentiment as they become the target of anger by unemployed natives.

However, there is a problem of a somewhat different variety that arises from immigrants coming for economic reasons – there is not the same drive for cultural assimilation. An immigrant who leaves one country for another because they’re fleeing an oppressive regime or culture typically embraces the place they’re fleeing too – after all, the difference in the administration of law is the point of their move to begin with. When one moves only for economic reasons, the drive for assimilation is much less, leading to lethargy toward adopting the culture, language and worst of all, civics of that place. This is not at all to say that all those who come to the US for economic opportunity don’t contribute positively in to the nation, only to say that the trend of merely chasing dollars and cents does not lend itself well to cultural assimilation. Now, a decent argument could be made that many immigrating to the US are actually bringing superior culture in some instances – I’d be willing to accept that premise on a case by case basis, but it doesn’t negate the consequences of a massively unassimilated migrant community. The obvious question/objection is this: why is assimilation important or even good? The answer is simple: the US is particular nation with a particular system of law and government. This system has yielded, in general, a peaceful nation. The working of our system requires a populace that subscribes and understands the laws that make it work. The laws are based on a common culture that has traditionally valued them. The culture is based in a common language, history and values system. Assimilation is necessary not only for the thriving of the nation, but also the thriving of those entering to it.

While there are a host of negative consequences that arise from a lack of assimilation, one receiving little attention from the conservative side of the immigration debate is the Democrat monopoly on immigrant voters. Why this trend? Well, for starters, when someone comes to the United States their primary interactions are with government run institutions – immigration bureau offices, the school system, community volunteer organizations, etc. – the bulk of these being run by urban, Democrat volunteers, or more often than not, paid government employees. How do I know? Because I have worked in some of these bureaucracies for years. The monopoly is held tight through an aggressive program built upon a firm subscription to the idea of multiculturalism that leads to a lack of assimilation (because if all cultures are equally valid and good, there’s no reason anyone should change or adjust their own regardless of where they come from).

It often works like this: (and I have asked many immigrants from Hispanic countries concerning these trends) an immigrant arrives in the US. He is shown the ropes of his new nation by both a plurality of government bureaucracies and by members of his own culture already there. As he is guided in the citizenship process, he is taught American History primarily by democrats, encouraged to vote by democrats and then his community tells him to “be Hispanic” in the US is to vote Democrat. Why would anyone be surprised that he votes Democrat with nearly every voice telling him to do so? To add insult to injury, the left-leaning folks who helped him are directly at odds with the community he’s a part of on even more crucial issues – they just don’t bother to tell him. For example, polls have shown that Hispanic voters are typically pro-life and pro-traditional marriage – issues that should be at the forefront of their voting decisions, but are so often ignored in favor of economic issues like “affordable housing” (which is essentially code for redistributionism, a policy that negatively affects any immigrants wishing to grow businesses and increase personal wealth in the US). Perhaps if the new arrival had been forced to assimilate more, he wouldn’t be voting for a party that openly supports things he detests from a moral standpoint.

Above all, it should be noted that assimilation is good for the person being assimilated, at least in the United States, thought this is not only true here. If YOU ever move to a foreign country, you should do your best to assimilate in the areas that are important – this does not mean that you change your worldview, but you adopt the language, traditions and civics that do not conflict with your conscience – after all, if you weren’t willing to, why did you move there to begin with?

In part 2 we will begin to look more specifically at the idea of incentive and how it determines who and why come across the border.

11/12/18

Why?: Explaining the Holocaust - A book review

By: Jonathan Harris

The very idea of the word “Holocaust” conjures up feelings of the most despicable kind of evil imaginable. It is normal for those who have detailed knowledge of the horrific mistreatment of Jews in Nazi Germany to wonder what could have motivated such barbarous actions in a civilized country. This is the very question history professor Peter Hayes seeks to answer in Why? Explaining the Holocaust. While Hayes admits his task is not an easy undertaking, he comes as close as perhaps one can to arriving at an explanation. Hayes introduces his study by stating: “Each chapter of this book examines . . . eight central issues . . . and the book as a whole reflects my conviction that the Holocaust is no less historically explicable than any other human experience . . .” (59). Broadly speaking, the issues Hayes deals with can be categorized into “acts of commission, some concern acts of omission, and still others entail[ing] both” (59).

The story of anti-Semitism in Europe starts long before the existence of national socialism.  Hayes observes that “Although some ancient Egyptian and Greek texts express animosity toward Jews, the rise of intense hostility to and fear of them largely coincides with the rise of Christianity” (133). Guilds across Europe kept Jews from competing economically in most vocations. However, the rise of capitalism afforded an opportunity for Jews to have success in financial vocations such as money lending. An oft-repeated cliche throughout the book is that “the appeal of antisemitism rises and falls in inverse relationship with the stock market” (478). The perception that Jews, because of their over representation in banking, were responsible for the financial down turns that affected the rest of the population formed the wedge that would tarry long into post-Christian secularism.

Of course the moral objection to the Jewish people still had a profound affect. The author states that “By the time of the Reformation . . . hatred of Jews . . . had crystallized around two central generalizations: (1) that Jews were parasitic profiteers, intent on extracting wealth from Christians, and (2) that Jews were incorrigible instruments of Satan, intent on serving his purposes and afflicting the pious” (207). The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a widely circulated publication originating in early 20th century Russia, asserted a Jewish conspiracy for international control. This theory was widely echoed as one Catholic journal from 1938 “wrote of the Jews’ ‘messianic craving for world domination’” (3994). It was this attitude that could have given rise to the Holocaust in many European countries as the lack of resistance and degree of assistance in the Holocaust among other nations shows.

The reason the Holocaust happened within a German context, according to Haynes, has much to do with events immediately preceding the rise of Hitler. “ . . . the prominence of Jews in the arts became an excuse to blame them for the alleged ‘corruption’ of German culture during the Roaring Twenties. . . the leading proponent of sex education and research and of gay rights . . . was a Jew, as was the owner of Germany’s preeminent manufacturer of condoms . . .” (1012). In addition, Germany’s devastating economic collapse in the late 20s and early 30s was blamed on Jewish corporate interests. Association with Bolshevism gave the impression that Jews did not care about the country in which they resided. The three-class voting system and “Jew count” from World War I still lingered in the minds of Germans who believed that Jews were over represented in political decision making had shirked their military duty. Catalyzing justification for this resentment was the fact that evolutionary “science” could now be used to justify racial hatred. “Hitler tricked his message out with a synthesis of pseudoreligion and pseudoscience that may be aptly dubbed a ‘theozoology’: On the one hand, he posed as an evangelist of the Volk, the person who would lead a national revival by making the German people sense its own power and, as the Nazi slogan ‘Deutschland Erwache’ said, ‘Awaken Germany’” (928). It was in awakening the German people to alleged Jewish privilege and fanning the flames of resentment because of it that Hitler gained the support necessary to eventually carry out the Holocaust.

In addition to answering the major questions, Hayes also draws lessons about the Holocaust. He identifies potential opportunities that exist within the United States for stoking the flames of hatred, namely toward homosexuals and Hispanics. This may be Hayes weakest section since he fails to make necessary distinctions between the motivations for the resentment of Jews within Germany and the motivations for wanting to secure the southern border within the United States. He also fails to interact with movements aimed at the rich, such as Occupy Wall Street, or the popular concepts of social justice and white privilege. Still, Hayes does offer up a wonderfully thorough explanation for why the Holocaust took place, and why there was little resistance to it.

11/6/18

The Farce of Finding Faith in Facts

Historiography Meets Presuppositionalism
By: Jonathan Harris

"This pill is guaranteed to cure what's ailing you!" or so the sales pitch goes from the half-baked sweat drenched racketeer of quackery and pioneer of snake oil preaching at the county fair. What's to make a young clean shaved fresh out of college urban sophisticate part with a few Thomas Jeffersons on the flimsy notion that he may, after all, get sick one day? Every marketer worth their salt knows the answer: "Don't take my word for it!” and in streams the testimonials and scientific studies all delivered by a lab coat housing the body of a healthy specimen of an alleged medical expert.

To the more skeptical among us this scenario raises eyebrows. How should we know that the smiling doctor on television is really telling the truth? How can we verify that the testimonies before us are not the performances of paid actors? Where can we go to find the cold hard truth straight from the mouth of the proverbial horse? Fears are somewhat dispensed when a trusted source, such as a close friend or a family doctor, tells us that the product worked for them. Subjective experience, therefore, does hold a place in the quest for verification. Anxieties may also decrease when it's confirmed that a prominent university is willing to stake its reputation on the product on the basis of clinical studies. Objective scientific processes, it can thus be surmised, also hold a place in verification. Still, there are some who may find their faith in a product boosted when the mechanism behind the product's success is logically explained to them.

In each of the cases above faith is being displayed in some form. Trusting a snake-oil salesman may be more akin to a blind leap, but it is just as much a faith commitment as purchasing a product on the basis of consensus, expert authority, or sensory perception. The latter are perhaps more reasonable, but they are not less faith driven. It is easier to trust our eyes than it is a complete stranger mainly because we have previous experience with our eyes that we do not have with a stranger. Of course, even this assumes the principle of induction which in and of itself must be justified epistemologically.

Now, for the sake of argument, pretend we are trying to verify the effectiveness of a medication existing one hundred years ago with a recipe that has since been lost in a natural disaster. There are no living witnesses. There are no experts. There is no scientific data. All that exists are written testimonials. Perhaps without the missing additional verifiers it would be tempting to eliminate the whole concept of the medication all together. Why not sink into complete skepticism about the product? Maybe the testimonies are mere forgeries? Whose to say?

Consider that this is the way in which the vast majority of historical facts come to us. Perhaps there are artifacts and corroborating evidence, but why should one hundred pieces of evidence be any more reliable than one? With no one alive capable of stretching their memory back into the past far enough perhaps the whole discipline of history is a fruitless effort?

Facts, as it turns out, are not self interpreting. They are particulars in search of universals. They must be assumed to exist first, and then they must be categorized. For example, if one were to find a saber from an area in which pirates were known to traverse three hundred years ago, and if such a saber matched other known sabers from pirate vessels, it may be a safe assumption that the saber is in fact a pirate saber. Because this reality cannot be totally verified should not bother anyone. What is verified is the methodology used to ascribe the category of "pirate saber" to the piece of medal found on the beach.

The next logical question is, "Upon what basis can this methodology be justified?" Carl Trueman believes that it is upon social convention:

"My conclusion is that, while there is no such thing as neutrality in the telling of history, there is such a thing as objectivity, and that varied interpretations of historical evidence are yet susceptible to generally agreed upon procedures of verification that allow us to challenge each others’ readings of the evidence.” (Trueman, Histories and Fallacies, 21)

Whether it be the nature of an ancient artifact, or a much more complicated proposition such as "King George III violated the English constitution," objectivity, according to Trueman, resides in "generally agreed upon procedures." Trueman goes on in Histories and Fallacies to further define what he means by "procedures," but he never defends his assumption that such procedures are granted validity by being "generally agreed upon." It's more than a little interesting that in a wonderful work that even includes a chapter on logical fallacies, the whole basis for trusting any of the methodology being discussed is likewise an "ad populum" fallacy.

My suggestion is that one can appreciate, in general, the tools that traditional historians use to refute revisionists without hinging their entire toolbox on a cliff of expert testimony, majority vote, or prejudicial conjecture which will only serve to place any system of interpretation two steps behind a complete collapse into postmodernism itself. An easy case and point would be the majority of experts in Soviet Russia who reduced the entire history of religion to a manifestation of ignorance and superstition. Their fatal flaw was assuming dialectic materialism. Philosophy undergirds historiography. Fortunately, despite their materialism, Soviet historians were not wrong in every area just because they were wrong in one. They would have, with equal vigor and rigor, argued against holocaust deniers just as any American historians today would. But, the important point is this: Their "rightness" or "wrongness" was not determined by their agreement. Something other than their consensus made them right about some things, and the denial of this "something" made them wrong about other things.

When determining if a salesman is being honest, potential customers are justified in employing methods of verification, but not because they are autonomous self-justifying creatures. Rather, it is because they themselves are "justified." Here's an analogy. Suppose a microscope is being used. In order to utilize it properly the device must be calibrated, otherwise it will not focus on the petri dish. A microscope cannot focus itself. Nor can a convention of microscopes assemble and focus themselves together. They rely on outside authentication. A human must calibrate them according to a pre-assigned criteria. Even if were the case that every microscope in the world were unfocused, it would not follow that the new standard for microscopes is that they ought to be unfocused. A criteria from the maker of the microscope still exists. It could be that the contents in a petri dish are not identifiable, but this does not invoke relativism. Objectivity makes its way to the microscope from the top down, not the bottom up. It is outside the system, not within it. It is in the calibration that truth is brought into focus, not through a “brute” self interpreting fact.

It is the same with both testing medication or engaging in historical research. Human beings are finite but calibrated by their maker to ascertain truth. They rely on a divine entity that must by nature be immaterial, absolute, and unchanging in order to justify induction, the immaterial laws of logic, and sensory perception. Some kind of unified plurality must be presupposed and grounded in order to solve the problem of unity in diversity thus creating the categories necessary for relating objects to one another. In addition, there must be an ethical code of some kind that ensures lying about facts is impermissible. Of course now I will be accused of religious language. But, to be sure, it will be by some modern prophet whose mouth inescapably drips the same kind of language.

The reason some customers are duped by snake oil salesman is the same reason historians are duped into pseudo-history. They have adopted a paradigm that does not adequately account for all the facts available. They declare "clear" what in reality is "fuzzy." Sometimes evidence is ignored or misread due to improper calibration. An example would be the materialists previously described. Their whole foundation for critical analysis, perhaps unrealized by them, is based upon immaterial absolutes. Yet, they undercut their own foundational belief by also holding to materialism simultaneously. Throwing out all facts that would suggest immaterial realities leads to paradigms that do not make sense of all the evidence. Human nature is reduced to biological categories. Thus, historical realities are interpreted according to material needs. Another reason historical error takes place is that not enough facts exist to create a paradigm capable of fitting the facts that do exist. The methodology may be superb, but the lack of evidence must lead to an educated guess. Archaeologists are constantly coming up with theories about incomplete evidence. Sometimes their theories are later proven to be wrong based on new evidence.

It is important in this historical endeavor to maintain an attitude of humble absolutism. Humans are finite creatures utilizing infinite principles. Historians deal in evidence, not brute facts. Just as a diamond has many facets, so do historical realities. Events in particular can be seen from many different angles. Reconstructing something as sophisticated as a crime scene requires a willingness to be corrected. However, this willingness is never to be confused with postmodernism, relativism, or revisionism, all of which do away with universals and any kind of binding methodology.

In closing, let me name some names. There is a curious strain of supposed objectivity among the priests of modern academia when it comes to the cause of the War Between the States. Gary W. Gallagher maintains that “If Southerners did not fight to preserve slavery, neither did they wage a rebellion against the United States.” (Gallagher, The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, 207). Well, I suppose the second claim is as equally disputable as the first. Edward H. Bonekemper III says that “[The war] had everything to do with it (i.e. slavery)” (Bonekemper, The Myth of the Lost Cause, xi). In both cases, it is claimed that the “truth” squarely contradicts the “Lost Cause Myth.” Gallagher writes, “I am more concerned with its historicity. Thus I will catalogue the assertions of the Lost Cause and compare them to the history of the Civil War experience. The goal is to correct the national memory by refuting the Lost Cause legend and reestablishing the war as history” (Gallagher, 14).

All this may sound well and good to the casual reader, but what is actually being lost in these studies is any semblance of actual objectivity. The reason for this is that methodology has been sacrificed by ideology. If it assumed at the outset that Southerners were as a group involved in historical amnesia about the reasons they engaged in war, of course the conclusion will also assert that Southerners were liars. It is as if the scientific process is commenced with a smudge on the screen of the microscope.

In a failure to recognize their own biases, both Gallagher and Bonekemper conveniently leave out or offer absurd explanations for facts that do not seem to fit their paradigm. Gallagher asserts that Gettysburg could not have been the turning point of the war since there were two years of fighting after the battle. What are historians then to make of the battle of Midway during the second world war? Hampton’s support of black suffrage after the war as a self-realized ploy to paint the war in a more noble light while efforts to suppress black suffrage are equally features of the Lost Cause. Jubal Early is credited with creating the myth of Lee to the exclusion of Grant at a time when Northerners had an insurmountable advantage in book purchasing power. The more one reads, the more conspiratorial things become. Similarly, Bonekemper commits the error of reification by attributing personal attributes to the Lost Cause such as its ability to convince Douglas Southall Freeman to paint Lee in a favorable light in his famous biography of the general. The burning of Columbia by Sherman’s army is attributed to Wade Hampton despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that is never discussed. The Confederate Constitution is thoroughly cherry picked, but never actually understood in any intelligent fashion.

The reason for this is clear. To purveyors of politics history is a weapon. The pursuit of understanding takes a back seat to the impulse of destroying ones political foes. There is no real objectivity because the tools of the historian are not the primary tools being utilized. They are only called upon on the off chance that they can be harnessed to seemingly validate a political point. This is why Gallagher and Bonekemper’s historical paradigm falls apart. They allow their faulty metaphysical and ethical assumptions to influence their epistemological method.

Why talk about any of this? Just like the actor playing a doctor in a television commercial is able to sell snake oil, so too is the political priest playing the historian. Most are aware of the first kind of charlatan but fooled by the second. Unfortunately, listening to him will cause more than just a belly ache. Like a house built upon a poor foundation is a historical paradigm built upon faulty assumptions. Always examine the presuppositions of any alleged expert. It may be that they handle their tools with skill and precision, but if they start their process upon a faulty basis or an ill conceived philosophy, the whole house will come crashing down. Both act as if they are neutral because of their unbiased and objective "expert" status. They alone are capable of separating myth from fact. They want us to put our faith in the facts, when in reality it is not "the facts" we are putting our faith in at all, but rather their own philosophical musings.

Davy Crockett is said to have made the statement, "Be Sure You’re Right, Then Go Ahead." Historians would do well to be sure that their historiography is in order and only then go ahead with using the tools of a historian. Don't be fooled. Finding faith in facts is just a farce.

11/1/18

Two Unconventional Books on Abraham Lincoln

By: Joseph Jay

Abraham Lincoln is somehow surviving his country's current "re-founding." Street and building names are being changed, monuments taken down in the place of new ones, and somehow ole' "Honest Abe" escapes the criticism leveled at other prominent Americans such as George Washington and Andrew Jackson. The reason that, at least for now, Lincoln is still seen as the hero of America's story is because of his reputation as "The Great Emancipator." He is effectively the 19th century's MLK. In the quest for egalitarian equality and universal political mobility Lincoln is a patriarch. The only problem is, the facts do not exactly fit the narrative. In fact, they don't fit at all.

Charles T. Pace has recently come out with a wonderful short book entitled Lincoln as He Was on Abraham Lincoln's life from childhood to the resupply boat headed to Fort Sumter. Abraham Lincoln, it can be concluded, was a political animal. In a way he was an abolitionist when it suited him, just as he was a Christian when it suited him. Pace destroys any mythology surrounding young Abraham Lincoln as a backwoodsman splitting rails. If anything, Lincoln was characterized in the words of his contemporaries as being "lazy." He was not much of a student either. At least not in the classical sense. The little he did read suited a pragmatic political end. Pace hangs the responsibility for the war on the shoulders of Lincoln, where it likely belongs due to his political maneuvering and rejection of all conciliatory efforts. The chapter on Fort Sumter is worth the price of the book. In his own words, and those of his contemporaries, the real Lincoln was a far cry from the downright falsehood spun about him today.

Another book published nine years ago by Thomas J. Dilorenzo tells the same story with a less biographical and more political focus. The Real Lincoln focuses on Lincoln's abuse and misuse of political power, his erosion of civil liberties, and ultimately his place as a founding father of American despotism. Dilorenzo pulls no punches. For those who think the War Between the States was about the emancipation of slaves, this book is the antidote. Not only is Lincoln exposed, but the early Republican party is indicted along with him.

Both books are written on a popular level and thoroughly researched and cited. Even for members of the cult of Lincoln worship, these two heavy hitters are good to have as opposition research materials.

10/22/18

War Without Mercy by John Dower: A Review

By: Jonathan Harris

World War II was a conflict that included many wide and divergent motivations among those who participated. However, one aspect of the war has not received the scholarly attention it deserves according to John Dower. “Apart from the genocide of the Jews, racism remains one of the great neglected subjects of World War Two." In War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, Dower presents his thesis stating that, “To scores of millions of participants, the war was also a race war." To substantiate this claim, Dower attempts to leave no rock unturned. Wartime propaganda, popular media, cartoons, and direct quotes from scientific, military, and political leaders in Japan, the United States, and to a lesser degree Great Britain are all examined. The book is comprised of three neatly organized sections. The first, entitled “Enemies,” offers a first hand look at how racial animosity affected the conduct of the war. The second two sections, “The War in Western Eyes” and “The War in Japanese Eyes,” serve to give the reader a deeper account of the psychology and philosophy undergirding racially superior attitudes on both sides.

In the first chapter Dower states, “The propagandistic deception often lies, not in the false claims of enemy atrocities, but in the pious depiction of such behavior as peculiar to the other side." Both the Japanese and the Americans were guilty, according to Dower, of appealing to counterfeit virtue on the part of themselves while maintaining outrage in regard to the atrocities of the enemy. Films like Frank Capra’s “Know Your Enemy - Japan” in the United States, and the Japanese books such as “Read this and the War is Won” or “The Way of the Subject,” all helped shaped public consciousness regarding the other side. Dower notes, “The Japanese thus read Western history in much the same way that Westerners were reading the history of Japan: as a chronicle of destructive values, exploitative practices, and brutal wars." Racial mistreatment of blacks in the United States and abusive colonial practice on the part of Great Britain became favorite tools in the hands of Japanese propagandists, while Japan’s cruelty toward Chinese civilians was a pawn in the hands of the British and Americans.

Both sides to some extent attributed animalistic tendencies to their enemy upon evolutionary grounds. This was more so the case among the Allied powers, and Dower is quick to point out that the Nazis may have influenced the Japanese in this direction. Japan saved most of her racial prejudice for the other “darker people of Asia" while simultaneously claiming to be their liberator from the West. “From at least the Heian period (794–1185) on, the pale patrician has been idealized in Japan . . .” Therefore, wartime propaganda and newspaper cartoons rather portrayed Western powers as devils, while equivalent American publications painted the Japanese as primates.

Perhaps Dower’s most powerful pieces of evidence come from the illustrations contained in his book. Political cartoons featured in prominent British, American, and Japanese newspapers show what appears to be an obvious racial component. The Japanese are often demeaned as insane and undeveloped in American cartoons, however, after Pearl Harbor, the advent of a menacing Japanese superman makes its way into cartoons as well.

Dower certainly provides some useful research. He shows that race was a component in World War II. There are, however, a few weaknesses worth mentioning. The first weakness is that at certain points Dower seems to overstate his case. For instance, Winston Churchill referring to his Asian allies as “little yellow men” is assumed to be derogatory. It could be, but it may not be. Descriptive language is not always an indication of racism. Dower seems to assume that it is. Even describing a group of people in animalistic terms is not always a clear indication that racial animus was behind the characterization. Since motivations are in play, these are hard waters to navigate, and therefore the benefit of the doubt should be extended whenever possible. Another issue the author has is that he extends his main thesis out to include the relationships the United States had with Japan and the Soviet Union up through the 1980s. “Ultimately, [the race war] brought about a revolution in racial consciousness throughout the world that continues to the present day." The only problem is, if the Americans were able to transfer their disdain for the Japanese to the Russians it is doubtful that the conflict existed on the basis of race in the first place. Similarly, if the British and Americans thought of their Asian allies in racially inferior terms, as they did the Japanese, then how could race have played a decisive role? It obviously was not decisive enough to keep the Allies from forming alliances with other Asian nations. Perhaps race became an occasion for conflict rather than a cause for conflict. It was perhaps a war than included racial animosity, but not a “race war” in the proper sense.

9/3/18

Historical disinterest, a values dilemna

By: Jonathan Harris

The study of history cannot be neatly contained behind the tall foreboding doors of an ivory tower nor swept under the rugs of dusty corner offices housing stacks of paper. It bleeds into other fields as it serves to inform both individual and group identity. It gives context to the current world and helps one understand their place in it culturally, socially, and spiritually. The modern disinterest in studying history has more to do with a lack of identification with the subject matter presented than it does an actual disdain for stories of the past. 

Joyce Appleby, a former history professor at UCLA, sought to explain this controversy as a somewhat unsurprising development given the collective nature of history and the cultural change occurring in American culture. For example, Appleby, in discussing the inclusion of African-American experiences into the greater story of America, tells us that “incorporating these details of the African-American experience in national history . . . proved almost impossible, because they represented such an indigestible element in the tale of American democracy (Appleby, Telling the Truth About History, 299). In other words, the traditional consensus would not stand for African-American history that shown poorly on the greater narrative. Part of Appleby’s solution for attracting interest in the subject of history while avoiding the discarding of traditional concerns was to democratize the subject along pragmatic lines. A moderation intended to include newer groups who have been allegedly left out of the American story while still maintaining an overall group cultural identity was the goal.

Appleby’s solution comes across in some ways as overly naive and optimistic. If her assessment is accurate the question then becomes, “Are disenfranchised groups desiring their cultural stories to be incorporated into the larger American story?” Perhaps this is taken for granted since the battle Appleby may have been observing was being played out in board room tug of war matches located in American history textbook manufacturing plants. It would be nice to think that everyone could “just get along,” but this is rarely the case over something so fundamental to national identity. The question is not asked, “Why do Irish, Italian, Jewish, German, and perhaps many Asian cultures not seem (broadly speaking) to have the same problems identifying with the American story as other minority groups, though they experienced varying degrees of bigotry as well?” Could it be that certain groups are not interested in history, especially American and Western history, not because they do not feel included, but rather because they fundamentally have a dislike or disagreement with the country in which they reside. They simply do not wish to identify. Perhaps the common ground with one’s culture necessary for even forming an identity is not present. It is likely that the only exposure to American or Western history known by many is a negative. Since the divide in this matter is also generational, this would certainly suggest that the proposed solution will not work. Appleby may as well have been trying to un-poison a well in that case.

So how can history be made more relevant? Most humans do not wish to know a great deal about something they find offensive. Repulsion gives birth to avoidance. After all, if one knew their great-grandfather was a horse thief, drunk, and a swindler, how much more about their grandfather would they want to know, and would they ever make one of their children his namesake? If parents are not engaged in civic duties, families are too broken down to impart identity, and Hollywood produces art that vilifies American heroes, teaching names and dates will not suffice to cultivate an interest in a topic thought to stink in the first place. Though it be an up-hill battle, perhaps the only option available to the historian is to first become the philosopher. If the values passed down through law, legend, and lore are castigated as fundamentally offensive, then the values themselves are what need explanation and defense first, not the stories that flow from them.

If one thing remains clear it is this: All people use standards by which to judge those who preceded them. If the theme of American history is to be “how the people of the United States did terrible things and continue to do terrible things,” it would not come as a surprise that such a course would need to be mandatory in order to have any participation. The more moderate alternative (hinted at by Appleby), “how the people of the United States failed to live up to their values but are getting better” is not much of a rallying cry either. If the standard of measure for judging the past happens to be egalitarianism, there does not seem to be any way of recovering an interest in American history as a identity marker. Its main function will most likely be sacrificed on the alter of identity politics.

8/21/18

"What Happened?!" Why Protestors Took Down Silent Sam and What You Can Do

By: Jonathan Harris

It was on this very week one year ago that I embarked on what would become a three hour informal debate with protestors beneath the shadow of the Silent Sam statue at UNC Chapel Hill. I was not sure what I was getting into at the time, but I knew someone had to stand up and say something. Getting angry on social media did not seem to be accomplishing much for me or those on my side of the debate. My goal in confronting the protestors was for myself as much as it was for them. I needed to see them for who they were.

They were indoctrinated, ignorant, malicious, and dangerous. But, as much as their truth suppression had affected them, they were also broken, insecure, lost, and pathetic. Their moral compass off. Their God-given design marred. Their natural tendencies replaced by the unnatural. Yet they were still human and bore the image of their Creator whether or not they believed in Him. Yes they were culprits, but they were also victims of their own beliefs. They may have been my social and political enemy, but they were still my mission field—people I could reach and relate to on a deeper level, because I too, apart from God’s grace, was like them. My purpose in writing this is not to rehash the ins and outs of my three hour exchange. You can read about that here. Since the Silent Sam statue has now been destroyed likely by some of the same protestors I reached out to a year ago, I want to answer a question gnawing at the heart of many on my side of the debate. “What happened?” Not just as it relates to the mob that ripped down Silent Sam, but what happened to our young people? To our culture?

As you may have known, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last three years, what happened earlier this week is not unique. Countless demonstrations in favor of just about every cause on the “Left” or against every caused deemed to be on the “Right” have been the norm now since directly preceding President Trump’s election. In fact, a little over a year ago some of the same culprits who lawlessly tore down Silent Sam, tore down a Confederate monument in Durham. Our side (i.e. traditional Americans who think the admirable aspects of our heritage are worth preserving) has been pretty good at winning arguments, but we are not winning hearts.

We can generally expose the absurdity of neo-Marxists using history and logic. “No, the Confederacy was not fighting to preserve slavery.” “No, the Founding Fathers were not trying to set up a government of white privilege and misogyny.” “No, Donald Trump is not a white supremacist,” and the list goes on. We back up our counterpoints with data, and can usually corner often younger, arrogant, inexperienced Leftists by applying their own standards to themselves (whether they’re listening close enough to spot their refutation is another story). We have a paradigm for reality that attempts to take into account all the facts, good, bad, and ugly. They usually have a belief based on what their professor told them substantiated by a “NowThis” video that can only survive by actively suppressing facts that do not fit the paradigm.

So why are we not trouncing the opposition? Why do they not beat their swords into plowshares as they are dazzled by our impeccable logic? Why do they continue to attack what they often willfully do not understand. Why the vicious hatred for what we stand for even when we are nice? There are two sides of the coin in answering this question. The first side can be summed up in four words.

Because they hate God.

They kick against the goads of the natural order God has set up. They resent the constraints of gender, hierarchy, and privilege. They seek to rip down anything that reminds them of their station and the responsibility attached to it because on a core level they believe they are able to create their own version of reality in which they are god. They have faith in an egalitarian heaven here on earth. As an example focus on these words inscribed still at the base of Silent Sam.
To the Sons of the University who entered the War of 1861-65 in answer to the call of their country and whose lives taught lessons of their great commander that duty is the sublimest word in the English language.
Obviously no white supremacy here. No racism. But we do find duty and hierarchy. Robert E. Lee’s famous dictum, “Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less,” defines this generation of men. About a year ago the self-crowning sophisticates at Duke University decided to commemorate the vandalism of Lee’s statue, taken off the side of Duke Chapel, by updating their interpretive pamphlet with the idea that the hole left by vandals symbolizes the hole in America's race relations. However, Lee's bust sat right next to slaveholding Thomas Jefferson who’s bust was not removed nor was made (yet) to bear the entire burden of America's race issues. 

Could it be that slavery in and of itself is not really the issue? We traditional Americans know this, but we tend to think those on the progressive side do not—that they are somehow duped into believing the war was “all about slavery.” So many of us start spitting facts at them about Northern complicity, the Morrill Tariff, how the Confederate constitution outlawed the slave trade, etc. and while that may work with many fellow conservatives who actually have been duped, it does not seem to make much of a dent when it comes to social justice warriors.

If you remember nothing else, remember this. Social justice warriors cannot be convinced, they must be converted. I am not suggesting we abandon an intellectual defense of tradition, but I do think we ought understand the real issue so we can expand our focus. The protestors are not reacting against slavery per se. They are reacting against a culture of duty, hierarchy, and privilege—vestiges of which still exist in the Christianity, manners, and paternal nature of the South. Kicking the head of an inanimate statue makes no sense to someone who fails to understand the real issue. The statue is not lifeless to the protestor. It represents something very real, felt more than understood. It may have connections to a broken family, abusive parents, and bad relationships, but more than anything it is connected with God. A God who would allow suffering. You think I am talking about slavery but I am not. I am talking about young men and women who think they do not deserve the hand they have been dealt. Nevertheless, they still seek for meaning in what they have been taught is a meaningless world. Deep down they suppress what they know in their heart of hearts: That the Creator’s meaning on this earth includes inequity and suffering. They cannot attack God directly so they go after the most accessible representation of Him they can get away with destroying. A statue that screams the reality of immaterial absolutes such as honor, declares an individual’s responsibility to his culture, and champions the ideal man from the high point of Christian civilization is a perfect target. Add the allurement of instant media attention (the only concept of meaning many of the social media generation can conceive of) and a police force that is ordered to stand down and you have a recipe for disaster. Intellectual arguments are necessary, but love is essential.

As stated previously, hatred for God is the first side of the coin in answering why many of the young protestors are not persuaded by argument. The second side is a disordered identity. When I met a year ago with the protestors at UNC I noticed two things that stood out to me. The first was that my Christianity was more offensive to the protestors than was my Confederate heritage. The second was that many of the protestors lacked respect for their families or even the concept of family. This came out in both discussion on abortion and of the sins of previous generations. It is not that they disdained the concept of family. Indeed, those who perhaps looked like they might be the descendent of a slave were supposed to be justifiably offended by Silent Sam. But this family connection only served to perpetuate a sense of victimhood. There was no positive family identity with which I could appeal as one who was proud of my Confederate ancestors. The protestors were more than willing to throw their ancestors under the bus and understanding them was of little interest.

Contrast this with the way I was raised, which I think will give us the key to engaging with millennial social justice warriors. I was nurtured into three primary identities two of which were birthrights and one in which God had to call me into (I’ll let you guess which one that was). I was a Christian, a Harris, and an American in that order. These were not my only identities, but they were my primary ones. I was privileged to grow up in a house in which I had stability. My parents loved each other and demonstrated quite well the roles I needed to navigate the world around me and become a man. I knew what a father, husband, wife, and mother were. I was proud of my parents, and by extension I was proud of my family. I was taught what it meant to be a Harris (honesty being the chief virtue), and I was provided with living heroes in my immediate and extended family. My grandfather told me about World War Two, and the older members of my extended family told depression-era stories and passed on folklore. My parents were careful to teach me about heroes of the faith (missionaries, Bible heroes, etc.) and of American history. Obviously Robert E. Lee made it onto that list. So much of what I do whether I’m aware of it or not stems from my identity.

Not so for many of my compatriots. The majority live in what I call a “hormone culture,” the exact opposite of a duty-driven culture. They are lost in this world and many are not even aware of it other than the emptiness they feel inside. They know nothing of real faith, family, or country. Most come from broken homes. The majority have never seen what true love between a husband and wife look like. Insecurity is the norm. They have nothing to take pride in other than their individual abilities. This is the essence of hormone culture. Life becomes about sexual exploits, bodily shape, style of clothing, or some other superficial quality. Some of these young people will carry this attitude into adulthood where their whole identity will be wrapped up in their position (ever meet an arrogant professor at a university?). They have lost the divinely intended connections to faith, family, and country, and therefore have lost accountability, responsibility, and meaning. It is in this environment that the Left offers a devil’s bargain. “Come to us and protest those who have what you do not. Pretend that you have moral authority over them. Make yourself feel justified in your own sins. Ease your conscience for a little while. Take your anger out on those who have more privilege than you. We will make you famous and you will finally have the meaning you’ve been missing.” Of course, just like the original Devil’s bargain (to be like God), the promises do not pan out, which is why the protesting never seems to end.

If you recall, I originally set out to answer the question, “What happened?” It’s actually quite simple. In rejecting divine order and engaging in carnal pursuits the culture  has managed to finally “liberate” itself from it’s own heritage. The obvious next question is, “Can this be remedied?” I actually foreshadowed the answer to this question when I stated, “Intellectual arguments are necessary, but love is essential.” Ask yourself, if you are in a heritage group like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, “How many young people do you see in attendance at your typical meeting?” The likely answer is, “Not many.” Now, I do not pretend to know every circumstance or reason for this being the case, but on a macro level something went wrong. Why is it that our sons are not interested in their own heritage? Could it have something to do with us? I say this as a 29 year old who is fascinated by the stories of American and indeed, Confederate heroes. Were they ever taught, as I was, to take pride in family—to look into the mirror and see generations of men staring back into their face. There’s no substitute for telling the stories. My dear readers, please know this: Culture is not built on arguments, but on stories, and stories are only attractive if there is proper respect for the heroes in them which takes me to my last and final point.

Perhaps most important to this entire discussion is this: We are living in a time when there are no real heroes. The protestors do not see the heroism in a man like Robert E. Lee for reasons previously explained, but do they see a hero in you? Treating a protestor like a dignified human is not something they are used to from opposition. In fact they will probably respect your bravery and sincerity. This is the reason I brought sports drinks to those staging the sit in at UNC last year. I listened to what they said, showed them respect, and I was shown a shocking amount of respect by most of them at the end of our conversation. I know if it were possible I could have carried on a relationship with some of them past our conversation. Most of the younger ones especially are hungry for the relationships they have never had, they just do not know it. Some do not even have a concept of what a home to be proud of looks like because stability to the is a foreign concept. You can be that stability. Sure it takes patience, but true love is worth the work.

I have not touched on the cowardly cops or the corrupt school administration in this post. Let me say this though: We ought to let UNC and Chapel Hill know how upset we are over this. (UNC Police - (919) 962-8100, Mayor's Office - (919) 968-2743, Office of Chancellor (919) 962-1365, Donate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Heritage Defense Fund here) There needs to be some righteous indignation toward what amount to a mob of spoiled brats. Justice and love flow together and it is not loving to justify evil activity. If anyone finishes this and gets the impression I am not angry about what happened, they need to read it again. I am angry, but I also have compassion on those whose lives are so pathetic as to find meaning by being out late at night destroying property. We are generally good at the justice side, I’m suggesting, without changing this, we also become good at the compassion side. Here are two parting biblical passages that help me remember that justice will come one day, and it will be from someone greater than me.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

“For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14

7/12/18

Exporting Social Justice: What happens when we send these ideas to the rest of the world?

By: David Harris

In consideration of the current swing in American evangelical circles toward social justice, especially in reference to the recent interdenominational conferences, it seems necessary to reflect on what I will call the “consequences of exportation” of social justice ideas to other parts of the world. Any individual who has traveled internationally and has stayed among evangelicals of other nations will be able to attest to the fact that biblically minded Christians in the United States have had a profound influence on the biblically minded church internationally. Our authors are read, our pastors listened to and our theological trends often adopted in churches throughout the world. The reason for this American influence on the international Christian community has everything to do with the freedom and prosperity that the United States has encouraged since its inception – our prosperity has allowed for our influence: the largest mission organizations, the biggest Christian booksellers, the most mega mega-churches and so on. While there have been tremendous blessings from this prosperity and influence, there have also been negative consequences because influence can very easily be corrupted and misused.


The point is this: with the great influence of the American church comes a great responsibility to export biblical truth, not just in an abstract sense, but in carefully considering how theological ideas and constructs are going to affect not only the American church, but the church abroad. And so we come to the exportation of the idea of social justice: how will we affect the international Christian community?

First, for the sake of clarification, the assumed application of social justice is basically this: traditionally or currently oppressed people groups demand or expect contrition and/or repentance from the perpetrators of said oppression (qualifier: the perpetrators don’t need to be alive today, as their posterity can/should repent for them – though it is not necessary to have ancestor perpetrators, as ethnic and cultural markers also are cause for contrition as they may indicate current status of privilege). Once ongoing contrition has been established, the perpetrators need to stand in solidarity with the oppressed group and pursue vague goals of “justice” and “equality,” especially agreeing with the oppressed group on views of history, justice, privilege and even economic policy.  (NOTE: It does not matter if the perpetrators and/or oppressed were individually Christian at the time of injustice – the point of applying social justice is just that, social, and the concern is the reconciliation of both parties)

To develop a picture of what this might look like in several places throughout the world, I’d like to apply the social justice standards to a number of ethnic/cultural hotspots (historical and current). To avoid redundancy, I will stay within roughly the last one hundred years.

1) Turkey

Oppressors: Turks          
Oppressed: Armenian Christians

In 1915 and over several years following, well over 1 million Armenian Christians in Turkey were systematically exterminated by the Turkish regime. As the Turkish government has yet to issue any recognition or apology, it is especially crucial for Turkish people, especially Turkish Christians, to recognize and repent for the deeds of their ancestors and for the privilege they enjoy in a nation that has largely been expunged of Armenians. While obviously not all Turks were involved, the application of social justice demands a collective responsibility among Turks in general that created the environment for the genocide to occur.
               
2) China/Japan

Oppressors: Japan          
Oppressed: Chinese throughout northeastern China

While the holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany was egregiously horrific, the actual numbers of those killed somewhat pale in contrast to the genocide perpetrated against the Chinese by the Japanese during their period of expansion in the early 1930s through the mid 1940s during World War II. While death camps were not set up exactly in a way that mirrored the Nazi Holocaust, the horrors of the invasion defy imagination – execution contests, “rape camps,” and even reports of cannibalism. While social justice demands that the Japanese repent for the gross sins committed during the “Rape of Nanking,” Japanese Christians should be the most vocal, as many of their ancestors more than likely served in the Japanese military during the genocide. When comparing Japanese and Chinese standards of living, personal income and social standing in general, there is blatant inequity in privilege – Japanese are far more affluent and live in a system of much greater personal freedom and security when compared to Chinese. Should not Japanese Christians be the most outspoken and lead by example in contrition for these acts that their predecessors perpetrated, as well as recognize the privilege that they enjoy because of the crimes committed against their neighbors?

3)  Germany/Eastern Europe

Oppressors: Germans and Nazi Allies     
Oppressed: Jews living in Germany and Eastern Europe

An especially egregious crime of the 20th century, the Holocaust stands out for its systematic planning of genocide of Jews in Europe. The fact that the genocide was perpetrated out of a traditionally Christian nation speaks volumes – the Christians of Germany must have an attitude of repentance toward their Jewish neighbors, and participate in collective truth-telling about the part their ancestors played  or didn’t – whether or not their ancestors participated directly, there must be collective contrition for creating an atmosphere that allowed for the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi regime – it does not matter that many, even prominent Luftwaffe soldiers were against what was going on or had no knowledge of it (for example, Erwin Rommel), the collective responsibility and necessary repentance must be felt from those with German blood wherever they are in the world, especially considering that they continue to benefit from their privilege in Germany today.  

4) Rwanda
Oppressors: Hutus, Tutsis, Belgians, French, United Nations, United States
Oppressed: Hutus, Tutsis, Belgian soldiers
   
The Rwandan genocide is one of those horrid events that sticks out in collective memory because of how recent it was – only 24 years ago. Because of this, many are still alive who were either victims of mistreatment at the hands of the Hutu extremists, or were actually participants in the massacre of Tutsi and Hutu moderates from April to June, 1994. While the genocide was primarily a Hutu on Tutsi affair, the collective responsibility stems back over a century, back to the traditional animosity between the two Rwandan tribes, the favoring of the Tutsi over the Hutu during colonization by the Belgians, the supplying of training of the Hutu extremists by the French Government prior to the genocide, the inaction of the United Nations during the genocide and the failure of the Clinton administration to accurately label the event, what it was, a genocide.

While the Nazi perpetrated Holocaust may have been shocking for its systematic efficiency, the shock of the Rwandan Genocide stems from its premeditation and grotesque brutality. Neighbors killed neighbors. Friends killed friends. No one outside Rwanda intervened for over 100 days, and by the time intervention occurred, at least 800,000 Rwandans were dead and millions more displaced. Since the number of those involved in the genocide was so high, many will never be brought to justice.

5) South Africa

Oppressors: British, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaners, Apartheid Government, current government, black South Africans, White South Africans  
Oppressed: Zulu, Xhosa, Ntebele, Swati, Shangaan (etc.), Afrikaners, black South Africans, white South Africans, colored South Africans, bushman

A brief history: when the Dutch colonists and French Huguenots settled the Western Cape of South Africa in the mid-1600s (after Portuguese discover nearly 200 years earlier), they found a number of native tribes, many who had been oppressing each other for long periods of time. The Dutch settlers practiced some slavery (as did the African tribes already present). Since the Dutch were white and had guns, this made them the worst of the lot. The British came in the mid-1700s and seized the Dutch colony by force. Many of the Dutch fled north into the interior where they were met by the Zulus. The Zulus had been oppressing… essentially everyone around them for some time and were building an empire of sorts. The Voortrekkers (as they were called) defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River – interestingly, their relationship improved afterwards. After about 40 years, several colonies were coexisting in South Africa – the British and the Zulus oppressed each other through armed conflict, the British eventually being victorious. The British then decided to seize more of the Boers (as the Dutch were not called since they weren’t really Dutch any more) land. The Boers won the first war with some of the most incredible long range shooting in history. A decade later the British got smart and built concentration camps to put the Boer families in. The Boers lost.

The British ran the show in South Africa from the early to mid 1900s. Besides Christianity, education, hospitals, roads, technology (to the degree that the first heart transplant was done in South Africa), a modernized economy, international business investment and economic stability, the British colonial government brought only oppression. In fact, the oppression was so bad that a young Mohandas Gandhi (of later fame during the Indian Independence Movement) protested so much about being segregated as “colored” and forced to use the same facilities as black Africans (who he saw himself as superior to) that he was put in jail. This helped jump-start his career of not doing things authorities said to do on purpose in order to get arrested. He was very successful in his career, especially posthumously.

After World War II, the British left South Africa to a white minority that immediately began a policy of “apartheid,” which after every systematic genocide mentioned above and every similar event in human history, was the (in the words of Nelson Mandela) “greatest evil in the history of the world.” Black South Africans were oppressed and occasionally murdered by the white ruling party until international pressure and internal upheaval forced an end to the policy and the beginning of the true freedom of democracy – as is popular throughout Africa and with democracy in general, the first free election resulted in one party essentially ruling the country by an 8-2 margin, so far for 24 years.
    
The oppression of the whites during apartheid was reversed through “Black-Economic-Empowerment,” a policy that essentially seizes capital from white businesses when they reach a certain income bracket. Incredibly, this policy saw an exodus of business and a reversal of economic progress in the country. The rapid economic downturn made everyone in the country feel oppressed. At the same time an unprecedented rise in crime led to increased misery all around the country, but especially on the rural farms where white farmers were targeted for murder at genocidal numbers. In 2018 the government decided that all of South Africa’s problems came from the Dutch and British coming in the first place. They also decided that the best fix for this would be taking land from white people and putting it under government control, which they call, “justice.” In the midst of all of this, the “colored” people (“mixed-race” to Americans) were essentially the most oppressed, as they were too small to enjoy any influence. To complicate matters, people from all over Africa are fleeing their countries and coming to South Africa because it’s still better than wherever they’re coming from. The response from some groups of South Africans has been to ostracize, beat and murder them. This is called “xenophobia.”
By the way, the majority of South Africans claim some sort of Christianity.

So, my social-justice-advocating-friend, as you have advocated, those who bear collective and historical  guilt need to recognize past faults, make restitution and identify/rectify current privilege enjoyed  from these past transgressions. I give you 5 international examples of where this should be applied, the last being perhaps the most difficult to sort.

Good luck.

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