Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Anarchy and the Elites

“You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”― G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Friday, November 8, 2019

Living in a Post-Human World

The parish church of St Mary Magdalene at Little Whelnetham, Suffolk

R.R. Tarsitano writes, "No institution (Government, Academia, Media, etc.) is coming to save us. In fact, they will use our hope in them against us, gladly taking our time and treasure to sell us back a mess of pottage for our birthright. In a post-human world, men and women are merely objects to be manipulated for maximal pleasure until we all march into the darkness.

Tarsitano is an Anglican priest who directed this article to his fellows Anglicans. In "Outline of an Anglican Parish in the Post-Human West" he says, "As traditional Anglicans, the rest of our lives should be spent opposing these two ways to die by sacrificing ourselves for a Christ centered community."

This article is an "in-house" conversation among Anglicans. However, one need not be Anglican or even religious to apply many of Father Tarsitano's suggestions for loving humanity. These can apply in many contexts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Darkness of Mao's Revolution

Tia Zhang

The communists took power in China in 1949, ending a prolonged civil war that had left the country weary and ready for change. Many hoped that the Mao's government would improve conditions for the average citizen. Instead, China slipped into a violent revolution that became one of the twentieth-century’s greatest humanitarian disasters.

Mao unleashed his Red Guards, a group of students and children of Party officials who had been brainwashed from childhood to be Mao’s enforcers. They marched in the streets, berating and beating people at will. Executions were common, with the public being forced to watch. Conservative estimates put the death toll of Mao's revolution at 65 million.

The Great Leap Forward was Mao’s attempt to collectivize agriculture, and it resulted in the worst famine in history. It is estimated that 45 million people starved and died during Mao's Great Famine.

The book “Dancing Through the Shadow" details the period through the life experience of a Chinese ballet dancer. The story follows Tia Zhang's life as she navigates motherhood, marriage, and an escape from communist rule. The story's background is the darkness of Mao's totalitarian regime which dictating the terms of Tia's life until she could escape.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

On Trusting the Elites

G. K.Chesterton wrote:
"Only the Christian Church can offer any rational objection to a complete confidence in the rich. For she has maintained from the beginning that the danger was not in man's environment, but in man. Further, she has maintained that if we come to talk of a dangerous environment, the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment. I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest — if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this — that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags." (From here.)

Wisdom resides in a realistic understanding of the potential dangers of great wealth and great poverty. Wisdom also directs us to thoughtfully consider what a just society would look like. Some might advocate redistribution of wealth, but the redistribution always seems to work best for those doing the redistribution, creating a new wealthy elite. The elites, who ever they may be, have the advantage when it comes to "justice."

This is one of the problem with socialism. Another problem is the socialist attack on religion in general and Christianity in particular. Vladimir Lenin stated that in order “to combat the religious fog… we founded our association, the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party, precisely for such a struggle against every religious bamboozling of the workers.” Lenin wanted to halt “the religious humbugging of mankind” and cleanse the political system “of medieval mildew.”

The Reformation attempted to clear the Church of corruption and the Medieval mildew, but the Reformation had little influence on Russians. Corruption in church and government stirred anger against both. Lenin wrote:
"Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. These should become absolutely free associations of like-minded citizens, associations independent of the state. Only the complete fulfillment of these demands can put an end to the shameful and accursed past when the church lived in feudal dependence on the state, and Russian citizens lived in feudal dependence on the established church, when medieval, inquisitorial laws (to this day remaining in our criminal codes and on our statute-books) were in existence and were applied, persecuting men for their belief or disbelief, violating men’s consciences, and linking cozy government jobs and government-derived incomes with the dispensation of this or that dope by the established church. Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church."
Under Lenin only atheism received endorsement. Lenin recognized that socialists were, as a rule, atheists. They reject the "old prejudices" and "always preach the scientific world-outlook, and it is essential for us to combat the inconsistency of various “Christians.”

One of Lenin's objectives was the elimination of existing religion, and the prevention of future implanting of religious belief, with the goal of establishing state atheism (gosateizm).“Worshiping any god is ideological necrophilia,” Vladimir Lenin once wrote to Maxim Gorky.

The atheists closed the Russian Orthodox churches and monasteries, and those that were left open were closely monitored and under heavy restrictions. Priests were deprived of the right to vote. This can be expected if Socialism takes root in America. Socialists are not content merely to keep Church and State separate. They must seek to silence the Church.

Politics in the United States today involves an ideological struggle over who will be the new elite. Every American should be aware that greed for power and wealth rule the human heart and indeed "the most dangerous environment of all is the commodious environment" because it breeds complacency.

Related reading: V. Lenin on "Socialism and Religion"; Paul Froese, "Forced secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an atheistic monopoly failed." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2004); Smelling Rats: The Story of Katharine Atholl; Living in a Post-Human World; Anarchy and the Elites

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Destruction and Looting of Antiquities in Yemen

Yemen is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national museums that house priceless artifacts.

Bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen resulted in the complete destruction of the museum of Dhamar in the southwest, which contained thousands of artifacts from the Himyarite Kingdom.

Mohanad Ahmad al-Sayani, chair of Yemen’s General Organization of Antiquities and Museums in Sana’a, has lamented "Our immortal history has been wasted by wars."

The Yemeni cultural losses are noted by archaeologists. Although the country has been far less studied than Mesopotamia, it played a critical role in the rise of empires and economies in the region starting around 1000 B.C.

According to archaeologist Sarah Japp of Berlin’s German Archaeological Institute, "The destruction seems deliberate." She stated that, “The Saudis were given information on important cultural heritage sites, including exact coordinates"by UNESCO.

Japp was based in Sana’a before the war. UNESCO intended to protect the sites, but she fears that the data may instead have been used for targeting. “There is no reason to say all of these [bombings] are just accidents.”

There is evidence of al-Qaida raids on museums in Yemen and evidence in Europe of dealers who have been selling these antiquities. A special forces raid of one of the complexes of the chief financial officer of ISIS, receipts of about $5 million worth of antiquities sold over the course of a year were found.

At least 100 artifacts from Yemen have been successfully sold at auction for an estimated $1 million in the U.S., Europe and the United Arab Emirates since 2011, according to a Live Science investigation into the country's so-called "blood antiquities."

Read more here and here.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Funding ISIS by Looting Antiquities

This marble bas-relief, likely looted by Islamic State, was seized at Paris’s Roissy airport in March 2016 after arriving from North Lebanon. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Plundered antiquities from Syria were sold to ISIS and used by that terrorist organization to fund their fighting. The group looted ancient sites and also purchased ancient statues, jewelry and other precious artifacts stolen in Syria and Iraq. Experts say it may take decades for the stolen artifacts to surface.

“Once looted in Syria and Iraq, objects enter a gray market shrouded in secrecy,” said Michael Danti, an archaeologist who directs the Boston-based Cultural Heritage Initiatives and advises the U.S. State Department on the looting of antiquities in Syria. “It’s a problem that will stay with us for years to come.”

Read more here.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Iconoclasm Means the Destruction of Heritage

The Sun overshadows the golden bull calf as a sign of divine appointment. 
This is a Messianic image that iconoclasts attempted to obliterate.

Alice C. Linsley

A great threat to the preservation of antiquities comes from groups seeking to destroy images of which they disapprove. This is called "iconoclasm" from the Greek Eikonoklasmos meaning "image-breaking."

Today we read about statues of Confederate soldiers being damaged or removed because some find them offensive. In most cases, the statues are safely stored or placed in a less public place. The historical value of these statues and monuments is recognized by more resilient minds.

Smashing images or destroying places of historical value does not erase the tragic events of the past. It almost insures that similar events will happen again. It is better that Auschwitz be preserved as a reminder of Nazi hatred and genocidal actions.

Iconoclasm and the destruction of monuments and antiquities is prompted by prejudice, hatred, and ideological fervor. Religious extremism also leads to smashing images in an attempt to destroy the religious tradition of others. The destruction of artifacts of historical and anthropological value leads to the destruction of a people's social and religious heritage. It is difficult for a people to recover from the loss and it may take many generations to recover.

In the sixteenth century, the Puritans stripped the churches in England of crosses, statues, icons, and stained glass windows. Under Oliver Cromwell, thousands of sacred objects were destroyed. Items of value such as precious metals and gems were re-purposed and sold to fund Cromwell's wars in Scotland and Ireland.

Iconoclasm is endorsed by the Deuteronomist in the Bible.
"...  ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire." (Deuteronomy 7:5)
The main targets to be smashed were the bamot (high or exalted places). These "high places" were originally royal places of worship. Under the guise of opposing "idolatry" the places of worship that competed with the high place of Jerusalem were to be destroyed.

King Josiah destroyed the solar horses that had been a sacred symbol among the ancient Hebrew for many generations (II Kings 23:11). Iconoclasts attempted to remove the Messianic image of the Golden Calf which was fabricated by the ruler-priest Aaron and which were found at the high places of Israelite worship at Bethel and Dan.

In 2001, Islamic fundamentalists destroyed images regarded as world treasures in Afghanistan. Extremists smashed three hundred of the 2,500 objects that had been painstakingly reassembled at the Kabul Museum and looted thousands of artifacts.

Recently, ardent opposition to the controversial Amazon Synod led some Roman Catholics to toss indigenous Pachamama figurines into the Tiber River. Though the figurines are not appropriate in the context of a Christian church, they should not have been destroyed. They have historical, religious, and anthropological value.

Related reading: Graven Images and Idols; Fundamentalism and Syncretism in Hebrew History; Looting and Burning of Churches and Images in Chile