Saturday, April 2, 2016

Barth's Critique of Religion of "Good People"

In the midst of the carnage of the first world war in Germany, the great Protestant theologian argued that Christianity involves more than inner morality and being a ‘good person’

By Giles Frazer

It will be a century this coming summer that the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth began his revolutionary commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. A quiet and studious man of simple tastes, Barth was an unlikely revolutionary. He listened to Mozart, smoked his pipe and read the paper: “Theology is done with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other,” he said. But mostly he sat and wrote. His Church Dogmatics is more than six million words. And no, I haven’t read it all. But his considerably shorter Epistle to the Romans, written earlier, was the decisive turning point in 20th-century theology. It was a book that dropped a bomb on the comfortable assumptions of German liberal thought. And it’s a bomb that needs dropping again – but this time much closer to home.

Barth’s target was the sort of theology offered by his tutor, Adolf von Harnack. For the universally admired Harnack, Christianity was a religion of inner morality – of good people, in their local congregations, who sought nothing more than personal transformation. They respected the state and didn’t cause trouble. It was, to use the language familiar today, religion as a private matter, equally suspicious of outward forms of ritualism and popular superstition. Cultured and rational, it stayed out of party politics and set its mind on higher things. For Harnack, Christianity was fundamentally a religion of individual righteousness.

On the day war was declared between Britain and Germany, the Kaiser gave a speech to the assembled members of the Reichstag in which he made the moral case for Germany going to war. The speech was partly written by Harnack. Two months later, an open letter by 93 German intellectuals – 11 of whom, including the great theoretical physicist Max Planck, went on to be Nobel prize winners – made the same case. The war was a sacred mission. It was a question of survival for a superior culture that had given the world Goethe, Beethoven and Kant. Harnack’s name was among the 93 signatories.

And Barth's world was in tatters.

Read it all here.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Big Mouth Candidates and Free Speech

Having the freedom to express one's views in public does not mean that we should always do so, and certainly not in a manner that incites people to act in ways that may cause injury to others. Such behavior, regardless of who is doing it, should disqualify a person from holding the highest office in the land.

“Intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”--Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“Cruz, Rubio and Kasich criticize Trump for creating ‘environment’ for Chicago protest,” by David Weigel, Washington Post, March 11, 2016:
…Rubio, who is camped out in his home state in advance of the March 15 primary, told Megyn Kelly of Fox News that Trump was finding out that his “words have real consequences.” But roughly half of Rubio’s analysis was a criticism of the political left. After stating his appreciation for Chicago’s police, Rubio said that the protests needed to be put in contest.
“This is Chicago, protesters are an industry,” he said. “It is clear, just from watching some of these images, that this was an organized effort, an orchestrated effort, from groups that wanted to disrupt this event, and Chicago is a hub for that sort of activity. I would also say that people have a right, whether you disagree with someone or what he’s about to say – and I certainly disagree with Donald Trump on many things, it’s why I’m running against him for president – you don’t have a right to take away the First Amendment right of people to speak freely. I think you’ve seen some of this on college campuses recently. There was an article, not long ago I think, that [conservative commentator] Ben Shapiro tried to speak on a campus, and they basically shut him down. So I think this is crossing over into the broader society, and it’s problematic.”

About our free speech event in Garland, Texas last May, which was intended to be a stand for free speech against violent intimidation, Donald Trump said:

I watched Pam earlier, and it really looks like she’s just taunting everybody. What is she doing drawing Muhammad? I mean it’s disgusting. Isn’t there something else they could be doing? Drawing Muhammad?…They can’t do something else? They have to be in the middle of Texas doing something on Muhammad and insulting everybody? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? It’s probably very risky for her — I don’t know, maybe she likes risk? But what the hell is she doing?”

And now, after Leftist fascist thugs forcibly shut down one of Trump's events in Chicago, Trump’s Republican opponents, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich, are effectively saying, Well, he had it coming, he brought it on himself, just as Trump did of Pamela Geller after Garland.

Is there no candidate who understands the importance of the freedom of speech? Rubio comes closest to articulating it below, but then shows he doesn’t understand it himself. He says: “Whether you disagree with someone or what he’s about to say…you don’t have a right to take away the First Amendment right of people to speak freely.” But then he says, “I think he bears some responsibility for the general tone.”

So the thugs shut down the Trump rally, and it is at least partially Trump’s fault, because he told people (obviously facetiously) to beat up people who were trying to disrupt his events.

Read it all here.

Related reading: Why Many People are Resorting to Anger in Debates


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Thailand Holds 100 for Human Trafficking

Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking. It is a destination-side hub of exploitation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, for both sex and labor exploitation.
Fish for sale in Thailand market

Thai police said Monday over 100 people have been arrested in a crackdown on human trafficking since the European Union threatened to boycott the country’s multi-billion dollar fishing industry over the issue.

The EU hit Thailand with a “yellow card” warning last April, threatening to ban all seafood exports unless the military government tackled rampant illegal fishing and labour abuses among its fleets.

A delegation from Brussels visited the kingdom last month to assess progress but did not say when it would reach a decision on the boycott, which could cost Thailand $1 billion annually.

Thailand is the world’s third largest exporter of seafood – a status that rights groups say is achieved through overfishing, and a reliance on low-paid trafficked workers from neighbouring countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia.

It is desperate to avoid any costly sanctions on the fishing sector.

A spokesman for the Thai embassy in Brussels told EurActiv that Thailand was “committed to combat illegal fishing and to preserve the marine resources for our future generations”, pointing out that Thai authorities have now inspected some 8,398 fishing vessels operating in Thai waters, and that nearly 94% of fishing vessels have now installed a “Vessel Monitoring System.”

The Thai cabinet has also approved measures to ensure the legal minimum age for working in the industry is 18, and promised to expedite the judicial process for human trafficking cases, he said.

Read it all here.

Related reading: EU to decide on Thai seafood ban; EU Team Visits Thailand to Assess Fishing Industry Cleanup

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rapes in Finland Cause National Outrage

Tapanila railway station appeared quiet and chilly on Monday evening. A few people ran for the train heading towards the Helsinki centre. In front of the station, an elderly woman strolled the street with an aid of a walker.

Just a week earlier a crude act of violence shocked this suburb lying on the outskirts of Helsinki when near the station, on March 9, a young woman was raped.

The news caused an outrage on the internet and in the streets, especially, after the ethnic background of the suspects was revealed.

The young woman had stepped in a local train at the Tikkurila station at 21:10. She had only two stops to get home but it took only a few minutes for a group of five boys of Somali heritage in the age of 15-18 to summon and starting to harass her.

After five minutes, she left the train in Tapanila in her home neighbourhood, a park like residential area dominated with detached, terraced and apartment houses. It was a possible exit to the hellish situation she had unknowingly stepped into.

She lived within a walking distance from the station. But the group of boys decided continue to follow her, and after the train station, in an outdoor recreation area, they raped her.

What the boys didn’t know, was that they were followed and they were quickly caught by the police.

The boys were taken into custody for interrogations. On Friday, they were jailed as suspects of committing aggravated rape.

Read it all here.

In this case the police caught the rapists, but they failed to prevent or stop the crime. National outrage at the uptick in rapes by immigrants has led to the formation of vigilante groups such as the “Soldiers of Odin”. The group has taken to the streets to protect citizens against the invasion of Muslim refugees. The group was founded last year at Kemi, a border town in Finland which is an entry point for migrants. The group has now branched out into other parts of Finland with about 500 members across the country.

They formed this group because they feel the police are failing in their duties, so they stepped up to the plate to serve as eyes and ears. Finnish police files reveal that cases of sexual harassment has doubled in four months; however, police reports do not include ethnic descriptions of the perpetrators. It is important to note that Finland received about 32,000 new asylum seekers last year.

Related reading: Finland: Asylum Seekers will Work for Free

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Quote of the Week - Jorge Luis Borges

"Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy."– Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quote of the Week - R.R. Reno

"From where I sit, support for Trump isn't that hard to explain. The upper twenty percent in America have insulated themselves from the economic and cultural consequences of the last fifty years. Meanwhile, those in the bottom half must live in disintegrating communities and endure the consequences of declining social capital. They sense, intuitively, that our leadership class has a narrow, materialistic view of life and a ruthless, managerial approach to 'diversity' that undermines social solidarity, which is why they resonate with patriotic rhetoric that actually envisions all of us together, committed to a common good. Meanwhile, they see that their 'betters' have rigged the game, so much so that even the slightest dissent from political correctness brings fierce, disciplining denunciations....Our ruling class has re-invented itself as a technocracy that justifies its power by claiming moral superiority—and which dismisses challengers from below as morally deficient."-- R.R. Reno

Excerpt from essay titled "The Politics of Moral Denunciation"

Friday, December 11, 2015

Finland: Asylum seekers will work for free

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's government will require asylum seekers to work for free and to acknowledge a "national curriculum" on Finnish culture and society, it said on Tuesday, launching measures to tighten its immigration policy.

It will also regularly reassess conditions in the asylum seekers' home countries twice a year, and if necessary, cancel residence permits accordingly.

After its latest reassessment on Afghanistan, it said it would no longer grant subsidiary protection, claimed by people who say they face death or torture, to asylum seekers from South and East Afghanistan.

Read it all here.