Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Newt Gingrich on Fundamentalist Islam

What follows is the full text of Newt Gingrich's newsletter for 28 July 2010, as published by Human Events. He describes beautifully some of the issues I've been trying to wrestle with, thoroughly and articulately.


No Mosque at Ground Zero

One of our biggest mistakes in the aftermath of 9/11 was naming our response to the attacks "the war on terror" instead of accurately identifying radical Islamists (and the underlying ideology of radical Islamism) as the target of our campaign. This mistake has led to endless confusion about the nature of the ideological and material threat facing the civilized world and the scale of the response that is appropriate.

Radical Islamism is more than simply a religious belief. It is a comprehensive political, economic, and religious movement that seeks to impose sharia--Islamic law--upon all aspects of global society.

Many Muslims see sharia as simply a reference point for their personal code of conduct. They recognize the distinction between their personal beliefs and the laws that govern all people of all faiths.

For the radical Islamist, however, this distinction does not exist. Radical Islamists see politics and religion as inseparable in a way it is difficult for Americans to understand. Radical Islamists assert sharia's supremacy over the freely legislated laws and values of the countries they live in and see it as their sacred duty to achieve this totalitarian supremacy in practice.

Some radical Islamists use terrorism as a tactic to impose sharia but others use non-violent methods--a cultural, political, and legal jihad that seeks the same totalitarian goal even while claiming to repudiate violence. Thus, the term "war on terrorism" is far too narrow a framework in which to think about the war in which we are engaged against the radical Islamists.

Sharia and Western Civilization

Sharia law is used in many Muslim countries to justify shocking acts of barbarity including stoning, the execution of homosexuals, and the subjugation of women. Sharia does not permit freedom of conscience; it prohibits Muslims from renouncing their Islamic faith or converting to another religion. Sharia does not support religious liberty; it treats non-Muslims as inferior and does not accord them the same protections as Muslims. In these and other instances, sharia is explicitly at odds with core American and Western values. It is an explicit repudiation of freedom of conscience and religious liberty as well as the premise that citizens are equal under the law.

Thus, the radical Islamist effort to impose sharia worldwide is a direct threat to all those who believe in the freedoms maintained by our constitutional system.

Creeping Sharia in the United States

In some ways, it speaks of the goodness of America that we have had such difficulty coming to grips with the challenge of radical Islamists. It is our very commitment to religious liberty that makes us uncomfortable with defining our enemies in a way that appears linked with religious belief.

However, America's commitment to religious liberty has given radical Islamists a potent rhetorical weapon in their pursuit of sharia supremacy. In a deliberately dishonest campaign exploiting our belief in religious liberty, radical Islamists are actively engaged in a public relations campaign to try and browbeat and guilt Americans (and other Western countries) to accept the imposition of sharia in certain communities, no matter how deeply sharia law is in conflict with the protections afforded by the civil law and the democratic values undergirding our constitutional system.

The problem of creeping sharia is most visibly on display in France and in the United Kingdom, where there are Muslim enclaves in which the police have surrendered authority and sharia reigns. However, worrisome cases are starting to emerge in the United States that show sharia is coming here. Andy McCarthy's writings, including his new book
The Grand Jihad, have been invaluable in tracking instances in which the American government and major public institutions have been unwilling to assert the protections of American law and American values over sharia's religious code. Some examples include:

In June 2009, a New Jersey state judge rejected an allegation that a Muslim man who punished his wife with pain for hours and then raped her repeatedly was guilty of criminal sexual assault, citing his religious beliefs as proof that he did not believe he was acting in a criminal matter. "This court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited." Thankfully, this ruling was reversed in an appellate court.

In May 2008, a disabled student at a public college being assisted by a dog was threatened by Muslim members of the student body, who were reluctant to touch the animal by the prescription of sharia. The school, St. Cloud State, chose not to engage the Muslim community, but simply gave the student credit without actually fulfilling the class hours so as to avoid conflict.

In a similar instance in November 2009, a high school senior in Owatonna, Minn., was suspended in order to protect him from the threat of violence by radical Islamists when he wrote an essay about the special privileges afforded his Somali Muslim counterparts in the school environment.

In order to accommodate sharia's prohibition of interest payments in financial transactions, the state of Minnesota buys homes from realtors and re-sells them to Muslims at an up-front price. It is simply not the function of government to use tax money to create financial transactions that correspond to a religious code. Moreover, it is a strategy to create a precedent for legal recognition of sharia within U.S. law.

Amazingly, there are strong allegations that the United States now owns the largest provider of sharia financing in the world: AIG.

Last month, police in Dearborn, Mich., which has a large Muslim population, arrested Christian missionaries for handing out copies of the Gospel of St. John on charges of "disturbing the peace." They were doing so on a public street outside an Arab festival in a way that is completely permissible by law, but, of course, forbidden by sharia's rules on proselytizing. This is a clear case of freedom of speech and the exercise of religious freedom being sacrificed in deference to sharia's intolerance against the preaching of religions other than Islam.

Shockingly, sharia honor killings-in which Muslim women are murdered by their husbands, brothers or other male family members for dishonoring their family-are also on the rise in America but do not receive national attention because they are considered "domestic disturbances." (A recent
article in Marie Claire Magazine highlights recent cases and the efforts to bring national attention to this horrifying trend.)

Cases like this will become all the more common as radical Islamists grow more and more aggressive in the United States.

It is in this context that the controversy over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero must be seen.

Exposing Radical Islamist Hypocrisy at Ground Zero

There are many reasons to doubt the stated intentions of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque. After 9/11 he did not hesitate to condemn the United States as an "accessory" to the attacks but more recently refused to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization. This is unsurprising considering he has well-established ties to U.S. branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has also refused to reveal the sources of funding for the mosque project, which is projected to cost $100 million.

More importantly, he is an apologist for sharia supremacy. In a recent
op-ed, Rauf actually compared sharia law with the Declaration of Independence. This isn't mere dishonesty; it is an Orwellian attempt to cause moral confusion about the nature of radical Islamism.

The true intentions of Rauf are also revealed by the name initially proposed for the Ground Zero mosque--"Cordoba House"--which is named for a city in Spain where a conquering Muslim army replaced a church with a mosque. This name is a very direct historical indication that the Ground Zero mosque is all about conquest and thus an assertion of Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate.

They say they're interfaith, but they didn't propose the building of a mosque, church and synagogue. Instead they proposed a 13-story mosque and community center that will extol the glories of Islamic tolerance for people of other faiths, all while overlooking the site where radical Islamists killed almost 3,000 people in a shocking act of hatred.

Building this structure on the edge of the battlefield created by radical Islamists is not a celebration of religious pluralism and mutual tolerance; it is a political statement of shocking arrogance and hypocrisy.

We need to have the moral courage to denounce it. It is simply grotesque to erect a mosque at the site of the most visible and powerful symbol of the horrible consequences of radical Islamist ideology. Well-meaning Muslims, with common human sensitivity to the victims' families, realize they have plenty of other places to gather and worship. But for radical Islamists, the mosque would become an icon of triumph, encouraging them in their challenge to our civilization.

Apologists for radical Islamist hypocrisy are trying to argue that we have to allow the construction of this mosque in order to prove America's commitment to religious liberty. They say this despite the fact that there are already over 100 mosques in New York City.

In fact, they're partially correct-this is a test of our commitment to religious liberty. It is a test to see if we have the resolve to face down an ideology that aims to destroy religious liberty in America, and every other freedom we hold dear.

Your friend,
Newt Gingrich's Signature

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

INCEPTION and the Ethics of Mind-Rape

Monday night, my wife and I made a date of dinner and a movie. The movie was INCEPTION, the apparent blockbuster of the summer. I enjoyed the movie, though not as much as I'd hoped. My wife hated it. Anyway.

Since leaving the theater, one of the thoughts about the movie that's been nagging at me is that the ethical aspects of the premise were barely explored. The premise of the movie is that Dom Cobb (DeCaprio) is in industrial espionage, using CIA-developed technology to enter the dreams of powerful people and steal information from them ("extraction.")

He gets caught by Saito, one of his marks, and in order to save himself agrees to enter the dreams of a powerful person and PLANT (rather than steal) an idea in the mind of Saito's competitor, Fisher ("inception" rather than "extraction.") This will give Saito a competitive advantage against Fisher. The caper evolves from there. Parts of it are amazing, parts of it are stupefying. The special effects are magnificent, even if they overwhelm the story at times.

(Nothing to this point is a spoiler, because I haven't written anything not available in every review of the movie. Spoilers lie below, however.)

What of the ethical issues attendant to the premise of the movie?

1. The acts at the movie's center are the equivalent of mental rape, regardless of whether they are performed in the act of extraction or inception. Do we applaud this?

2. Cobb has performed one act of inception before. It ended very, VERY badly, with the death by suicide of his wife. Yet he is willing to try it again for a chance to reunite with his children?

3. Are we to applaud when the mind of a billionaire is raped, simply because he is a billionaire? Fisher is never shown to be unethical or dastardly--unlike the victims in the OCEANS series--so the audience is not rooting for bad things to happen to a bad guy. He's just rich, and in Saito's (and thus Cobb's) way.

4. The fact that a happy ending is manufactured for Fisher's relationship with his father--does this make the act acceptable? The happy ending wasn't fabricated for the sake of Fisher's health or well-being, it was devised to make him lose billions of dollars to the devisor.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"The Ruling Class & the Country Class"

For years, I've watched as the Republican establishment tittered in embarrassment at the greatest President of our lifetime, Reagan. And wondered why my party, whose values should have broad, populist appeal, is painted time and again as "the party of the rich."

The idea that Republicans represent "big business," "the rich," etc., is a baseless canard; big business gave more money to Obama than McCain, for example.

The lie gets articulated over and over by the chattering classes, as Democrats and their PR flacks (NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, NY Times, etc) intentionally nurture and maintain the illusion that the Democrats are the party of the PEOPLE.

Today, Rush Limbaugh focused most of his attention on an article that potentially illuminates this disconnect. It's a brilliant description / re-thinking of the relationship between America's elite and the rest of us. (It's also probably the most hit site on the web today; Rush managed to shut down American Spectator's servers today.)

Ignore it at your own peril. The article is here, and commentary from instapundit is here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Shapeless Musings on Islam and the West

I started down this road while reading news coverage of the women in Iran who have been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery. Keeping in mind that in those cultures, adultery is basically (or exclusively) a woman's crime--men don't commit adultery, only women; and that the accusation itself is all but considered proof of guilt.

(I had also read something recently about Islamic female genital mutilation / "circumcision".)

The fact that our President (or his representatives) expect to sit at a table and negotiate with representatives of such a country and such a culture, trying to get them to give up their nuclear ambitions, shocks me. I have a hard time thinking that I am from the same species (heck; from the same universe) as people who as a matter of course sentence potentially innocent women to die by stoning.

A friend of mine responded to the first note by pointing out the difference between the West, with some form of separation of church and state, and theocratic Islam.

I, like her, am troubled by people who seek to obliterate the distinction between church and state. People who talk about America being a "Christian nation" make me nervous--and I am a very conservative Christian.

It's not that I don't think the statement "America is a Christian nation" is true in a handful of ways: we DO have a common heritage, shaped and informed by Christianity; and Christianity is the religion that most citizens claim.

But I fear that's not what my friends mean when the start talking about "A Christian Nation." Some of them, at least, are referring to a kind of theocracy, forced or coerced conversion to Christianity. Those things are anathema to me.

One of the fundamental problems I have with Moslems, or with what I perceive to be the majority of Moslems, is that their religion denies other groups the right to exist.

There is a vast gulf between the Evangelical who thinks that non-Evangelicals are in danger of going to hell and the Moslem who thinks that non-Moslems are going to hell, and he's going to help them along the path, if they refuse to convert.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Islam and the West (INCOMPLETE)

How can Islam and the West coexist?

I've been musing on this topic for some time. My musings are admittedly ethnocentric. Western culture pursues (however imperfectly) certain ideals--equality, the dignity of the individual, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". The following is me attempting to work out the differences in values, and how different groups of people might peacefully coexist.

These ideals are superior to the ideals I see as central to Islam. To be more specific: some elements within Islam believe forced conformity is better than individual liberty. Some elements within Islam believe that some authorities are above questioning or approaching critically. Some elements within Islam believe that women are inferior to men.

These Western ideals should be universal. Every culture should respect the dignity and liberty of the individual. Every culture should treat women with respect and dignity. No culture should hold any authority above criticism or beyond questioning.

Western ideals are superior to the ideals preached by these elements within Islam (and several other religions, to be sure; the persecution of Christians in Hindu countries has for too long gone unreported. And some stripes of fundamentalist Christianity also struggle against these universal ideals.)

What are the universal ideals?
  • Every person has dignity and value. Every person should have the ability to pursue the course of their lives as they wish and as they are able. Every person should be able to believe what they want to believe.
  • The life of every person has value. It is criminal to deprive a person of life, except under strictly defined circumstances.
  • Etc., etc.
Am I saying that Islam must meet the West on the West's terms?

Sort of. If these universal ideals are truly universal, then Islam and other religions must accept their legitimacy. Even if Islam continues to teach, for example, that women are inferior to men, Moslems must acknowledge that other groups teach differently AND THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO DIFFER.


OK, this incomplete and disjointed blather brings me to a point: Islam should not be accepted as legitimate by the rest of the world as long as it does the following:
  • Sentence people to death by stoning
  • Target non-combatants for the use of deadly force (but what of Dresden?)

Losing Nate Henn - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lost Post?

Well, I emailed a huge post from my BlackBerry to Theophilus Punk on Friday morning, describing all the events Thursday and Friday at the NACC.

It never arrived, and my gmail doesn't have it (at least not from my laptop). I hope it's saved on my cell somewhere. I don't think I can reconstruct it from memory. Urk!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Wenesday Highlights--NACC

Wednesday was a great day @ the NACC. Four highlights among the many:

1. KCU's reception was a wonderful time of meeting KCU alumni &
talking about the past & future of the school that's closest to my
heart. Larry Marshall (our Director of Alumni Relations) is the Bruce
Lee of Alumni relations, with a fifth-degree black belt in promotions.
Honestly, I think he has the spiritual gift of networking, building
relationships with people & connecting them with ideas & events.

2. Dick Alexander, Wednesday evening. Someone last night said: "As
long as our movement is listening to people like Dick Alexander, good
things will be happening in the Christian Churches & Churches of
Christ." I could not agree more. Dick is a theologically sophisticated
prophet with a tender, caring heart.

3. Tony Dungy, Wednesday luncheon. Coach Dungy talked about "Uncommon
Leadership," the leadership lessons that he learned from his parents
(both schoolteachers) and ultimately from Jesus.

• Leadership should NOT be like driving cattle (modern American
leadership model); it should be like shepherding sheep (image of a
shepherd carrying lamb over his shoulders.)

• When Dungy was starting out as a coach, Chuck Noll told him: "Your
job is to make your players successful. You need to know the players
so you can figure out what they need to succeed."

4. Brian Jones, Wednesday morning. Brian preached on "The Great
Omission", what we're missing from the Great Commission. He said: we
(Christian churches, & Evangelicals in general) are great at GOING and
BAPTIZING. We're not so good at "teaching them to obey" what Jesus has
commanded. Undiscipled believers fall prey to all kinds of dangers
and traps. Shouldn't we value MAKING DISCIPLES as highly as we value
baptisms and transfers?

By the way, Brian will be at KCU this fall for THE BRIDGE this fall, 6
- 8 October. He will be preaching in chapel several times, lecturing
in classes, etc. For info, call Jane at 606-474-3253.

DISSAPOINTMENTS. Wednesday, I was disappointed by the absence of
Platte Valley Bible College and Dallas Christian College. I miss
seeing good friends like David Parrish, Dusty Rubeck, Mark Worley; one
of the great values of the NACC is the moments of connection and
reconnection that take place.

FASCINATING PEOPLE I MET: Danny Furukawa is one of the satellite
pastors & Shepherd of the Hills CC. Great guy, wonderful heart for
ministry & ministers.

Sent from my mobile device

Perry L. Stepp, Ph.D.

Vice President for Academic Affairs
Leader, Quality Enhancement Plan Team
Associate Professor, Bible and Theology

Kentucky Christian University

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Democrats & Republicans

This past week, Michael Steele said some (at best) poorly worded things about the war in Afghanistan. Many Republican leaders are calling for his ouster.

This past week, WV Senator Robert Byrd (a former KKK leader, organizer, and recruiter) died. As a Senator, supposedly post-KKK, Byrd fought against the Civil Rights Act. To the end of his day, he said very ugly things about race, including references to "n*ggers" in a televised interview.

At his funeral, Democrats were unanimous in lavishing praise on Byrd.

Do you see the disconnect?

In the mid-90's, Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to majority status in the House of Representatives. Gingrich was offered several lucrative book deals. The Democrats HOWLED, led by the pit yorkie David Bonior. It was unethical, they argued, for the Speaker of the House to profit from his position. (Never mind the fact that hundreds of Senators and Reps previous and dozens since have made money from writing books, many with advances not disproportionate to Gingrich's.)

Republicans didn't defend Gingrich. They let him twist in the wind until he agreed to restructure the payments he received on his book deals. Other Republicans chipped away at his leadership over the next few months, through scandals (some actual, some implied) and innuendo, until Gingrich gave up leadership and ultimately left the House.

Christopher Dodd, on the other hand, is one of the most ethically challenged people ever to walk the halls of the Capital. Date rapist, sexual harasser, the King of kickbacks; he has kept his place in the Senate, and is leaving now only because his popularity with the voters began to wane.


This is what I meant this morning when I tweeted / posted the following: "The lesson of Michael Steele and Robert Byrd: Democrats are better team players and more interested in winning than in ideological purity. Republicans are poor team players, more interested in ideological purity (often in the interests of self-advancement) than winning. Democrats have no shame; in politics, that's an asset. . . ."

What is it about Republicans that makes us incapable of circling the wagons around an embattled leader, damning the press and pushing ahead with what we believe in? What is it about Republicans that makes us tend to shoot our wounded rather than rallying around them?

Why do we have such a hard time being pragmatic, willing to gain ground incrementally, willing to compromise on ancillary issues in the interests of the big picture?

Is it our ties to conservative religious groups?

Is it the ghost of Watergate?

Is it the entrepreneurial spirit of our beliefs and convictions, which rewards & fosters ambition and the desire to get ahead (sometimes even if it means stabbing in the back the person in front of you)?

Obama has been a dismal failure. The Dems are on the run. We have the chance to rise from the dead (Nov 2008) and retake at LEAST one house of Congress, maybe both. IF . . .

If we can unify and focus on fighting our true ideological opponents, articulate a clear, pro-growth, anti-deficit agenda. If we don't, we will waste the most incredible electoral opportunity of our generation.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Discovering New Twitter-ers

Two articles that ran on enumerated the 25 most influential conservatives on Twitter and the 20 best political journalists on Twitter. Here are the links.

Just in case you didn't have enough stuff to read on your smart phone!