Pray Brethren

Pray Brethren

Saturday, December 31, 2011

South Sudan

Samuel Huntington’s civilizational fault line dividing Africa's Islamic north from the sub-Saharan south ran through one nation in particular: Sudan. But as of 2011, the region south of the fault line has become the nation of South Sudan. Although it is not a majority Christian nation, South Sudan has a Catholic president and boasts 80% of the untapped oil supply once owned by the Muslim north – an export which pays for 98% of South Sudan’s national budget and is the reason why Islamic Sudan’s currency is dropping in worth while inflation increases.

The departure of South Sudan, however, has given Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir the go-ahead to declare Sudan an Islamic state. With a new constitution in the works, Sudan’s laws will be rooted in Sharia law and enforced throughout the nation. This has left the Christians remaining in Sudan worried about a coming persecution and religious discrimination. Many Christians – and some Muslims – are now currently waging a rebellion in the boarding states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan (see map). Both South Kordofan and Blue Nile boarder South Sudan.

Writer Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi says this could lead to war:

In any event, it is clear that the events in the two border-states could well provoke a war between Sudan and its southern neighbor, with the former accusing the latter of orchestrating the rebels' activities. South Sudan denies this allegation, but may feel compelled to support the [rebels] in the near future should Khartoum's forces overwhelm the rebels and carry out mass killings on a similar scale to what happened in Darfur.
Given the demise of Gadhafi, Darfur itself may profit from arms coming across its boarder with Libya, and if a new rebellion breaks out there Sudan may be torn apart by economic and military woes in addition to ethnic divisions and the culture conflict of imposing Sharia law as the law of the land.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Understanding Patriarchy through Mary

Mary boasts the greatest status among all creatures for she is truly the Mother of God. But to this status, Mary says: Ecce, Fiat, and Magnificat. Rather than saying, “Behold, I am woman, hear me roar,” she says “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to His word... My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” As the Ark of the New Covenant and Queen Mother of the Kingdom of God, Mary wields more power than any other woman ever created – yet power is not her pursuit. Mary seeks to follow the will of the Father, the rule of the Father. In other words, Mary supports patriarchy, a word which literally means the rule of the father.

This is why Mary must be hated by Satan and feminists.

But Mary also helps us better understand who God is and our part in salvation history. She did this in 431 when her Motherhood helped Christians recognize the singularity of Christ’s personhood. Today, however, there are many who mistakenly place Jesus and the Devil on an equal, if opposite, playing field as if Jesus and the Devil are two opposing forces of equal strength and power. But Jesus is the infinite and eternal Son of God while Satan is a mere creature whom Jesus could eliminate with the snap of His divine finger. It is really Mary who is the opposite of Satan. While Mary says, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” Satan says, “I will not serve!” While Satan is the most powerful creature by nature, Mary is the most powerful creature by supernature (i.e. by being full of grace).

Sadly, the Hilary Clinton’s of today’s feminism would find themselves much more in agreement with the individualism and the will to power found in Satan rather than in the humility and submission of Mary to the will of the Father.

We must also not forget the unique relationship Mary has with each person of the Trinity, for in addition to being the Mother of the Son, she is also the daughter of the Father and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. Most importantly, we remember that these relations are gendered. Mary is mother, daughter, and spouse – and for those who like to think of the Holy Spirit as woman or neutered, we recall that Jesus declared the Holy Spirit a “he” and that the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing about the incarnation is very much a masculine act. Understanding this also helps us understand what theologians mean when they talk about Mary as the Icon of the Holy Spirit. The closeness of identity between Mary and the Spirit is only in the way that a wife and a husband share a close identity through their marital union.

There is a knee-jerk reaction to the word “patriarchy” today. But as we pray the “Our Father” and use “Father” when we address our priests this weekend, let us also recall Mary and remember that she is the most patriarchal of all Christians. Our society would crucify any who believed in patriarchy, but like Mary let us be bold enough to go to that cross where life is paradoxically found in doing the will of the Father amidst a culture of death.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Debunking Crusade Myths

Dr. Brendan McGuire gave a wonderful free series of lectures on the Crusades over at the Institute of Catholic Culture. In one part of his lecture, Dr. McGuire examines the reasons why crusaders went to war. The secularizing, anti-Catholic historians of the 19th century focused on the second son theory and the estates theory – both of which are still emphasized in pop-history literature, movies, and television documentaries. Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith, the most prolific living historian on the crusades, and a Knight of Malta, debunked both theories through use of a historical method called prosopography (i.e. the study of history based on the creating of databases on individuals who participated in an event).

According to the second son theory, titles and wealth went down to the firstborn son and thus the poorer knights of Europe would leave for the riches of foreign lands. In actuality, this theory is simply 17th-18th century European colonialism anachronistically projected into the medieval past. Riley-Smith, using a computer-driven database of medieval charters, discovered that the vast majority of crusaders in the First Crusade were wealthy land owners who had to expend 4-5 years’ worth of annual income up front in order to fund their part of the crusade. Now for an economy with reduced monetary system, liquid assets had to come through selling off titles or land. A surviving crusader who returned home would thus have very little to return to.

The estates theory seemed to correct the problem of the second son theory by stating that crusaders never intended to return home. They would instead carve out large, new kingdoms for themselves in the Holy Land. But this theory suffers from an even greater problem: 99% of surviving crusaders returned home. In fact, the true day-to-day defense of the Holy Land would turn more and more to the military orders of the Hospitaller Knights and the Knights Templar. But if crusaders did not fight for wealth or land, what did they fight for? They fought not merely for the personal spiritual benefits of indulgences, but also because their German blood boiled at the thought of the humiliation imposed on Christianity in the Holy Land and across formerly Christian lands. It was the same German warrior spirit, tempered and directed by faith, that forged both the nations as well as the great crusades.

Traditional versus Secular Culture

Until the sexual revolution of the 1960s, America was a traditional culture and its character expressed the natural outgrowth of Greek thought, Roman law, Christian faith, and the German warrior. The secularization which has engulfed our nation since the sexual revolution has replaced Greek thought with sophistry, Roman law with the enthronement of self, the Christian faith with atheism, and the German warrior with the pacifist.

Cultural assimilation of immigrants may have been a difficult process in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but the American culture which immigrants discovered was light years closer to theirs than American culture today – and this is because immigrants of a hundred years ago left one traditional culture and came to another. Here, marriage was protected, divorce shunned, men worked, fought, and sacrificed, and children obeyed their parents. Secular culture, with its focus on radical individualism, fails to be a culture – for a culture is something that unites a people. If a civilization is a “culture writ large,” how can a secular pseudo-culture ever be a civilization?

This is the problem of “the West” – a title which is as geographically disoriented as the spiritually disoriented people it claims to represent. We have an identity crisis, a loss of soul. Perhaps America needs immigrants now more than ever; not to work in our factories but rather to remind us of what culture really is. As the European nations peer over the edge of debt ruin and depopulation, they stand to become the new bastions of immigrants who say “yes” to children and “no” to credit cards: the Muslims. If America allows secularists on the Right and the Left to continue to steer our path and tell our story, we shall awake to find that our diseased civilization has become a corpse.

Dr. Pence's Marian Femininity Series

Below you will find a six-part video series on Marian Femininity presented by Dr. David Pence:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Red Tails

It's been nearly a decade since Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers - which means it's been nearly a decade since a good war movie has hit the screens. But while we're waiting for Mel's next epic, a movie chronicling a pious Jewish man and his sons' war of independence from Hellenizing Greeks, Lucasfilm of Star Wars fame is bringing us an inspiring new film that looks to stand side-by-side with Glory.

The movie is called Red Tails.

Set during the Second World War, Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskeegee Airman, an all-black fighter wing which has been sent in to defend American bombers over the skies of Europe. While Red Tails is a story of men fighting for their nation, it is also an icon of masculine protective groups. For these pilots, victory is not tallied by the number downed enemy fighters but rather by the number of protected bombers and allied airmen.

Red Tails hits theaters on January 20th, but in the meantime you can watch a preview here:

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Dioceses of Emperor Diocletian

Diocletian, the Roman Emperor to end Rome’s third century crisis in imperial succession, is known best by Catholics for the launching last great persecution of Christians before Constantine’s so-called Edict of Milan in 313 AD. His administrative reforms, however, would have far reaching impact. For example, the tetrarchy (rule of four), which Diocletian instituted for smoother imperial succession, introduced a new east-west dichotomy which persists to this day.

Another good example is his introduction of the diocese.

The dioceses were established as part of Emperor Diocletian’s broader provincial reforms. In order to keep provincial governors from gaining too much power, which could once again plunge the Empire into another civil war, Diocletian doubled the number of Roman provinces from 50 to 100. But in order administer all 100 provinces efficiently, Diocletian grouped the provinces into twelve dioceses (see map). Unbeknownst to Diocletian, the term diocese would one day be used to describe the territory of a local church under a bishop, who is himself a successor to one of the twelve Apostles.

As imperial power began to collapse in “the West” after 476, the Church began to step in to fill the vacuum of stability – and it was natural for her to continue using the term diocese, even if the seven westernmost dioceses established by Diocletian would be broken up into smaller and smaller units. Nevertheless, with a bishop at the head of each diocese, the Church in the middle ages began to see herself as the rightful leader of both ecclesial and secular affairs rather than an interim caretaker during years of political and economic instability.

Perhaps it was providential that the anti-Christian Diocletian would establish the first twelve dioceses, but we must also remember that it was providential that many God-fearing men would establish the nations.

The heavens are telling the glory of God

"The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."

-Psalm 19:1, King David

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: The Enemy At Home

The Essays of Orate Fratres now includes my new review of Dinesh D'Souza's book The Enemy at Home. In the book he offers a much broader understanding of Islam and the events before and after 9/11. D'Souza's thesis is that radical Islam seeks to destroy us because of our decadance, not our democracy.

From the Review:
While Dinesh D’Souza is best known for going head-to-head with atheists in public debates, this Catholic scholar from India, also has a knack for connecting faith to global affairs, foreign policy, and cultural reform on the domestic front. Indeed D’Souza’s book, The Enemy at Home, struck a cord among liberals and conservatives alike, calling out the secularists and making the case that our own moral depravity, sponsored by the secular Left, was the root cause of 9/11. D’Souza argues that conservatives have missed a perfect opportunity to link the culture war with the war on terror – that radical Muslims do not hate democracy, free markets, or new technology, but rather our permissive culture. Contrary to the Left, no Middle Easterner believes America is seeking a new hegemonic, territory-based imperialism. What struck fear into bin Laden was the new “cultural imperialism” of the radical Left which poses an existential threat to Islam.
You can click here for more.

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas

Did you know that the first gift jolly old St. Nick was best known for was his fist? Yes, it was St. Nicholas the bishop who got to land a solid punch into the jaw of Arius at the Council of Nicaea in 325. While Arius was busy spouting his heresy to the Council, St. Nicholas just couldn’t take it any longer. The bishops at the council actually locked him up – but after the miraculous intercession of both Jesus and Mary, St. Nicholas was brought back.

If you’re not familiar with the story – or you’d like to know what that miracle was – check out this blog post and read on. And if that doesn’t grab you, perhaps the introduction to the post will:

When President Teddy Roosevelt was a college student, he taught a Sunday School class for elementary school children. During this time, Roosevelt awarded a dollar to a boy in his Sunday School class for beating the snot out of a bully who tormented little girls. "You did exactly right," said Roosevelt with pride.
In the meantime, enjoy the picture above of St. Nicholas pointing out his right fist as Arius flails his hands in the air.

Cultural Imperialism

In the book The Enemy at Home, author and debater Dinesh D’Souza speaks of what he calls the “cultural imperialism” of the secular left. In other words, America does not seek to conquer Middle Eastern countries with military might but rather with its cultural depravity. The true imperialists are thus the secular leftists, not the traditional conservatives. Or as D’Souza would say, when “bin Laden calls America a Crusader state, he means that America is on a vicious international campaign to impose its atheist system of government and its pagan values on Muslims.”

President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, both extreme advocates of the secular left, have offered us a case-in-point today. The U.S. has decided to use foreign aid to promote “gay rights” in nations with traditional cultures and taboos. D’Souza would not be surprised at this newest act of cultural imperialism. It is an act which will embolden the enemy, winning over more traditional Muslims into the radical camp. What’s worse is that this act is bad foreign policy done to win cheap political points back home while trampling over the cultures of others. It is ethnocentrism at its worst.

But this also highlights a failed portion of the Bush administration.

During Bush’s eight years in office, he had the chance to build up an alliance between traditional Americans and traditional Muslims. Had he worked to create a deeper alliance between the values voters and the foreign policy hawks, Bush could have set in motion events leading to the free and traditional Islamic nations. As it stands now, the Arab Spring may turn into an Arab Winter. The secular leftists running our nation will do whatever it takes to secularize the Middle East – but this will only help radicalize the nations and forge an even deeper animosity between us. Sadly, Bush’s legacy may have been to leave Obama holding a military apparatus with which to promote the advance of the secular left.

Coming Soon: A Review of The Enemy at Home

Monday, December 5, 2011

African Economics and Civilizations

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting map of Africa (see below) late last month which Thomas Barnett commented on in his blog. As he notes, Africa has more nations per square mile than any other continent – which can make life difficult for Africa’s landlocked nations. To help with the economic situations confronting different regions, the map shows three economic blocs or networks established to connect the inside of the continent with the coast – and the world beyond that.

Needless to say, this map should be overlaid with a civilizational map of the continent (see above). In such a map we see what Samuel Huntington would call a civilizational fault line running east-west across the north-central stretch of the continent and then running south along the east coast. When we compare the two maps we see that the Islamic north cuts right through the “Economic Community of West African States" and creeps into the newer economic bloc on the east coast.

Given this civilizational fault line, where eruptions break out between Christians and Muslims, it should not surprise us that the southernmost economic network has encompassed the same number of nations as the slightly older West African bloc and could continue expanding to include the budding eastern coastal bloc. As time passes, it’s safe to say that the African Christian south will form more cohesive ties along the civilizational fault line running across the continent.