Published by David French -- Harvard Law grad, former lecturer at Cornell Law School, author of books no one reads, master of the three point shot, constant critic of Duke Basketball, Playstation2 addict, owner of a cool new
Sony DCRTRV25 MiniDV Digital Handycam, father of two and husband of one extremely hot wife
Friday, May 10, 2002
THE CHICK-DOMINATED CHURCH, PART II. In response to my post below regarding the reasons why men attend church at much lower rates than women, several readers e-mailed me and told that I needed to read Wild at Heart, a book by John Eldredge. According to these readers, Eldredge makes many of the same (or similar) points that I did yesterday.
I've just bought the book, and I intend to read it sometime in the next couple weeks. When I do, I'll post my comments.
Thanks to everyone who is writing with comments on my various posts. Without your ideas and encouragement, working on this site every day (and holding down a full-time law practice) would quickly become a burden. Instead, it's a joy.
OCCUPATION? I apologize for the late posting, but I spent most of the morning locked in a death match with a particularly nasty stomach virus. However -- dedicated as I am to doing homework for this weblog -- I spent most of my down time watching CNN and Fox News.
Fox was reporting on Israel's ongoing military buildup on the edge of the Gaza strip. In response to questions about Israel's intentions, Shimon Peres, Israel's foreign minister, said: "There is no plan to conquer Gaza." According to Peres, Israel intends to "reach points where we have had centers of terror in a very careful and measured way."
His comments highlight a fact that many people completely miss. We hear endless words about Israel's "oppression" and "occupation" of the Palestinian people, but we do not hear that, in fact, most Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza do not live under Israeli government control. For some years now, virtually all of Gaza's and most of the West Bank's populations have been governed by the Palestinian Authority. They are taxed by the PA, policed by the PA, vote in PA elections (to the extent any exist) and are even judged by the PA in Palestinian courts. In other words, most Palestinians are not governed -- on a day-by-day basis -- by Israelis.
This fact is illustrated by the differences between this Intifada (uprising) and the first Intifada (which occurred in the late eighties and early nineties). In the first Intifada, Palestinian youth threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed in their towns. In this Intifada, the stone-throwing (and machine-gun toting) youth actually have to travel to attack Israeli military checkpoints. When Israeli army units retaliate against attacks, they have to travel into Palestinian areas. They are not stationed in Palestinian population centers.
The reality of both Palestinian self-government and media misperceptions regarding occupation is perfectly illustrated in the following exchange between an Israeli military reservist and a reporter from CNN:
"One reservist sensed MacVicar’s hostility. He was a soft-spoken man who approached her and introduced himself as the reserve unit’s medical officer, Dr. David Zangen. He told her that when the fighting was over, they found photograph albums of children from roughly 6 years of age up through early and mid-teens. It was an album of photos of children who would be the next crop of suicide killers, with notations indicating when each of the children would be ripe. The reporter had no time for the doctor, however.
"Perhaps you should ask yourself why," she said, dismissing him.
"I do, madam," he said, "I ask myself why. I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine sending one’s child out to be a mass murderer who commits suicide to kill women and children."
"Well, I can explain it," said the reporter. "For me it all comes down to one word, ‘occupation.’"
"But madam," the doctor said, "Jenin hasn’t been occupied for nine years."
I had previously noted this article (see DON'T BELIEVE MEDIA BIAS IS REAL?), but I thought it perfectly captured my point and merited reposting.
As always, ignore rhetoric and focus on reality . . . and the reality is -- for most Palestinians -- while there is no independence, there is also no occupation.
THE WAGES OF SIN. Turns out that some Palestinians are beginning to have second thoughts about the culture of death they've created by celebrating suicide bombers as heroes and martyrs. The Palestinian populace was recently shaken when three young teenage boys armed themselves with knives and small pipe bombs and rushed an Israeli machine gun emplacement. They were all killed.
Even Hamas was aghast at this pointless embrace of death:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, which has organized dozens of bombings and other suicide attacks, and which claimed responsibility for Tuesday's bombing south of Tel Aviv, condemned the three boys' gesture the day after it happened. In a communique, it forbade any further attacks by adolescents acting on their own. In cooperation with the Palestinian Authority police and Preventive Security service, Hamas officials urged youths to turn in any of their friends planning to become martyrs.
Hamas has not shown such compassion for the victims of its suicide bombings, however, among them Israeli children struck down at pizza parlors and bus stops."
I love the second paragraph. Maybe, just maybe, the mainstream media (in this case, the Washington Post) is waking up to extent of Palestinian atrocities. America and Israel cannot allow the culture of death to prevail.
Thursday, May 09, 2002
THE CHICK-DOMINATED CHURCH. The Washington Times (an excellent conservative newspaper) has an interesting statistical snapshot of American religious practice. Reporting on the results of a comprehensive study of church size, church attendance patterns and church demographics, the Times notes that men make up "just 39 percent of the pew population."
My math is a bit rusty, but I believe that means women comprise more than 60% of your average church. While that is a truly astounding statistic, I must admit it roughly approximates what I've observed at the dozens of evangelical churches I've attended or visited over the past decade.
The statistic is interesting by itself, but it leads inevitably to a question. Why? Why are more women attending church? Is there something about the church that repels men? Or does the church just have greater natural attraction for women? Although I know that I am venturing way outside my areas of expertise (but, hey, it's my weblog. I can speculate all I want), I do have a few ideas -- all revolving around the same theme: the increasing feminization of the American evangelical church. I think this feminization is evidenced by several trends:
1. An increasing emphasis on emotion in worship and church services. In response to the stereotypically cold religious experience that many of our parents endured, some Christians have swung to an opposite extreme -- embracing emotional worship not just because God wants to engage us at every level (including emotionally) but also because we want to be seen as running away from "our father's religious experience." Many, many men, however, do not want to go to thrice-weekly gatherings where they are consistently emotionally engaged (and sometimes manipulated) but not intellectually engaged. The answer to the extreme coldness of much mainstream religion is not extreme emotion -- but balance.
2. An emphasis on kindness and compassion over courage. First, I want to make something absolutely clear: I am not against kindness and compassion. I try to be kind and compassionate. I want my kids to be kind and compassionate. I love kindness. I love compassion. However, just as the Christianity should engage both your mind and your emotions, it should also engage all the Godly virtues. For a variety of reasons (many having to do with reactions to negative stereotypes), evangelical Christians are called again and again to mind-boggling levels of kindness and compassion. I remember attending one church -- a huge evangelical church in Nashville -- where the sermons fell into one of two topics: i) everybody, be nice; or ii) please, be really nice. While men need to hear that message (sometimes more than women), they also crave a call to real action. Christ was more than nice, he was courageous, he was aggressive. He led people. We need to present Christ in all the fullness of his character.
3. An emphasis on fulfillment over purpose. I have attended some churches that seemed more like Christianized versions of Oprah or the "the View" than institutions devoted to the service of an Almighty God. The Church is not (or should not be ) simply the world's largest self-help organization. However, the message of (spiritual) self-help often seems to have taken over the pulpit. The world of self-help, of personal fulfillment and actualization, is unquestionably more female-centered and dominated (Just ask Oprah). But there's a reason why men don't watch Oprah -- or why men are heavily outnumbered at Deepak Chopra conferences. Men simply don't think about "fulfillment" as much as women. They want purpose. They want something to do. The church -- as the spiritual army of God -- is the perfect place to find that purpose.
Too many times, men visit an evangelical church, look at the men around them . . . and see Dr. Phil. Instead, they should see Christ. The Christ that turned the other cheek, that healed the sick, that caused the blind to see and . . . cleared the temple, confronted the Pharisees and initiated the most world-changing spiritual revolution in the history of mankind.
Please forgive the generalizations, but those are my thoughts. I would love to hear yours. E-mail me.
LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER the Washington Post reports that we may be on the verge of a major battle in Afghanistan (see Curve archives), USA Today weighs in with an article describing how military operations there may be winding down. In fact, one of the British commanders says the war in Afghanistan is "all but won." I want to believe the USA Today article, but I know that the Post's reporting on the Afghan war has thus far been first-rate. We'll just have to wait and see . . .
WILLIAM SAFIRE has an interesting (and disturbing) article in the New York Times today regarding the battle within the Bush administration over the possibility of Iraqi involvement in September 11. Some in the administration (Safire identifies the sources as CIA) are attempting to discredit reports that the leader of the September 11 hijackers met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official before the hijackings. Others are standing by this report, and, incidentally, so are Czech intelligence officials.
While internal administration squabbles are generally not of much interest to readers of the Curve, I wanted to highlight Safire's piece to show (once again) that victory in the War on Terror is not inevitable. As the memory of September 11 fades, and as the economy comes roaring back, pressure will only increase on America to refrain from launching a fresh offensive against Saddam Hussein -- and this pressure will come not just from the mainstream media, dovish members of Congress and our timid European allies, but from some members of the administration as well.
Bush must remain resolved to deal with Saddam. The stakes are simply too high. Our economic recovery is not more important than this war, our relationship with the European Union is not more important than this war, and our interest in a united domestic political front is not more important than this war. If we wait too long to act (or refuse to act at all), then Saddam will have the bomb, the Jews will face a second Holocaust, and we all may experience Armageddon.
Wednesday, May 08, 2002
MY WIFE TELLS ME that I'm writing too much about the war. Since I am always responsive to my wife's concerns, I'll branch out.
Thomas Bray of the Wall Street Journal recently noted something that I have been arguing for some time -- that certain aspects of the left's ideology resemble religious beliefs more than political views. In other words, much of the cultural left holds views about man's role in the world and man's relationship with "nature" that are both scientifically unproven (and potentially unprovable) and incompatible with many fundamental tenets of not only Christianity but also Judaism, Islam and other major world religions. Does man really have dominion over creation? Is there even such thing as "creation?" Does man occupy any special place in the pantheon of creatures? The environmental left has dogmatic answers to each of these questions -- and those answers often conflict with Christianity (for example, to a member of PETA, it would be offensive to believe that man alone was created in "the image of God" and would therefore merit any more moral consideration than, say, your average chicken).
While Bray focuses his attention on the environmental movement, the same religion analogy can apply in several other spheres of life. Radical gay activists, radical feminists, critical race theorists and other culturally liberal groups hold their views with religious intensity -- and often continue to hold their views even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence. They have their "faith," and nothing can shake that faith.
From my perspective as a lawyer, once you recognize this "church of the left" (to borrow a phrase from Stanley Kurtz of the National Review), you can understand the true state of religious speech in America. Most people know that courts are rather vigilant about preventing the state from speaking with an explicitly "religious" voice. To use some familiar examples: official public school prayer is prohibited, public school teachers can't hang the Ten Commandments on the walls of their classroom, and public school teachers can't proselytize -- at least during working hours. These same courts, however, do not prevent the state from speaking with a "secular" or "political" voice. Consequently, while a public school teacher cannot pray with her students, she can tell them that their beliefs regarding the morality of homosexual sex are bigoted and prejudicial, she can tell them that their beliefs regarding Man's place in creation are "speciesist," and she can even tell her students that their belief in "creation" itself is false. In other words, she can attempt to convert her students to her faith -- the secular faith of the contemporary American left. In fact, as virtually any parent can tell you, the public education establishment is heavily influenced by the environmentalist, sexually "enlightened," feminist left, and few students can avoid hearing its message.
In the American culture war, the two sides do not enjoy a level playing field. While the left can use the resources of government to convert Americans to their essentially religious world view (a world view that is fundamentally incompatible with evangelical Christianity), explicitly religious individuals cannot. Is it any wonder that Christian parents increasingly home school their children?
RELIGION OF PEACE. As another suicide bombing rocks Israel, it is (once again) important to understand the true motives and true heart of Israel's attackers. Here's a helpful summary of relevant Middle Eastern opinions (from today's Wall Street Journal):
"Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, says he would accept the suicide of even 10% of Muslims in a nuclear war to wipe Israel off the map. Algeria's president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has described the [suicide] bombers as "innocent blossoms of martyrdom." Ghazi Algosaibi, Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London and also a poet, has praised the human bombs as a model for Muslim youth in an ode. Ismail Abushanab, the Hamas leader in Gaza, says that 10,000 Palestinians should die while killing 100,000 Israelis as part of a strategy to "put the Jews on the run." And Saddam Hussein says the suicide bombers are "reviving Islam."
Israel should strike back -- and strike back hard. Peace can come only after this evil is defeated.
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
THE SEPARATION SOLUTION? The New York Times has a lengthy article on a radical new plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- separation. Under the separation plan, Israel would pull back to defensible borders, occupy all high ground in the West Bank and occupy a thin buffer zone on the border between Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank (to stop any arms shipments to the Palestinians). As Israel pulled back, it would build a complex series of high-tech fences, motion sensors and checkpoints. Palestinian terrorists would be literally walled out of Israel.
The idea has gained currency in Israel as Israelis have seen the success of the multi-million dollar fence that encircles the Palestinian Gaza Strip (a much smaller land area than the West Bank). While Palestinian suicide bombers routinely cross the porous border between Israel and the West Bank, there have been (to my knowledge) zero successful suicide bomb attempts from Gaza.
Leftist critics have attacked the plan because it neither creates a viable Palestinian state nor brings the Palestinians and Israelis any closer to real peace and reconciliation. Some conservatives are opposed because it would require at least a limited withdrawal from some settlements and because they have doubts that a fence (or any combination of fence and buffer zones) could actually prevent terrorism over the long term.
I am intrigued by the option. I have little patience for the leftist critique of separation. Real peace or reconciliation is simply not on the horizon so long as the Arab world continues to marinate in relentless hatred for the Jews. With anti-semitism now the defining characteristic of the Middle Eastern Muslim world, there is literally nothing that the Jewish state could do that would please the Islamo-fascists in the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Iraq, Iran and to a lesser degree, Saudi Arabia. Israel tried peace in 2000 -- when Clinton extorted historic concessions from the Israeli government. The Palestinian response to Israel's courageous offer was a declaration of war.
However, I am concerned about the long-term efficacy of the separation solution. Would a fence -- or even a fence combined with vigorously-patrolled military buffer zones -- actually work? Would even a limited withdrawal of Israeli settlers (to the new, defensible borders) be construed as a retreat by Palestinian terrorists, thereby spurring them on to even further attacks? Would Israel lose the geographic depth it might need to withstand potential Arab tank attacks through the Jordan Valley?
At this point, while prudence dictates that Israel construct a series of barriers between Jewish communities and nearby Palestinian towns, I believe it should wait on total separation. Though the current Middle Eastern Arab nations will never recognize Israel's right to exist, the Middle East that may exist after we finish our War on Terror could be much more accommodating. With a democratic government in Iraq, potential regime change in Iran and a decisive shift in the military balance of power away from Islamo-fascism, we may see real movement in the so-called "Peace Process."
If the War on Terror fails, then total separation may be Israel's only hope.
AS WAR RAGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, the ties between American Christians and Israeli and American Jews have never been stronger. Read this insightful and moving piece by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He says what many are afraid to say:
"So we see why Christians are so sympathetic to the Jewish side in this painful conflict: It is because they revere the Bible. And America, quite simply, is the most enthusiastically Christian nation on earth.
"Muslims, on the other hand, disdain the Bible and revere the Koran. Secularists disdain all Scripture. And Europe is now a secular land, having shed its former Christian faith.
"It may be attractive to think of Christians, Jews, and Muslims as forming one great "Abrahamic" civilization, linking all believers in the One God. But the truth is that today we are witnessing two distinct religious civilizations in conflict: that of the Koran, allied with the believers in no God, violently challenging the civilization of the Bible, of Christianity and Judaism."
Read the entire article. I think it is to American Christianity's (literally) eternal credit that we are standing with Israel in the hour of her need.
Monday, May 06, 2002
DON'T BELIEVE MEDIA BIAS IS REAL? Read this fascinating account by an individual who accompanied reporters from CNN and the L.A. Times to the Jenin refugee camp (site of a fierce battle between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas terrorists). It demonstrates how a story is often manufactured -- rather than reported.
Thanks to National Review's Corner for spotting this item.
IT DEPENDS ON WHAT THE MEANING OF "LAST" IS. In a Culture Curve first, I just received my first real burst of reader e-mail. Not surprisingly (considering the passions the man generates) the mail was in response to my items regarding Bill Clinton. While several individuals found my analysis of Clinton amusing and interesting, others asked why I was dwelling on the past. "Don't you have anything better to do," asked one reader, "than relive your Clinton hatred?"
So, rather than let the Clinton matter drop, I thought I'd throw out one final, self-justifying, Clinton post. I write about Clinton for one, simple reason: History matters. As the years drag by, an historical consensus about the Clinton presidency will emerge -- and unless conservative and Christian commentators are present to give the Clinton story balance and perspective, that story will be written by the historians of the academic left and the commentators of the mainstream, liberal media. Some facts will be highlighted, others minimized -- and some spun out of existence. The soap opera that was the Clinton presidency will be told. There will historical be villains and heroes, and -- unless we muster up the will and courage to continue telling our side of the story -- the Christian voice will once again be seen as the voice of darkness, of oppression.
Consider our general historical understanding of Vietnam and the Sixties. As a member of Generation X, I can honestly say that the first time I heard substantial academic and media criticism of the Sixties counterculture and of the Vietnam peace movement was my freshman year at a conservative Christian college. Before that time, the network-dominated media and the leftist-dominated public school establishment relentlessly bombarded me with words and images of that "idealistic" decade. I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that the various "liberating" protest movements essentially pulled America out of darkness and brought -- for the first time -- real freedom (sexual and otherwise) to millions of Americans. I was taught how courageous protestors woke America up to the realities of an unwinnable and arguably evil war in Southeast Asia; and (most importantly) I was taught that I should emulate the children of the Sixties in both my ideals and behavior. To the liberal establishment, the antidote to the "greed" of the Reagan Eighties was the "spirit" of the Sixties.
It was only later that I learned that the Sixties also represented something more sinister. While no one can doubt that the era saw real progress in civil rights, other developments were socially destructive and morally crippling. The breakdown in the family, an explosion of violent crime, epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, the total demoralization of our military and the shameful treatment of heroic soldiers -- all of these things are part of the true story -- the true legacy -- of the Sixties. Yet I know that they are often barely mentioned in many of our public schools and institutions of higher education.
Through this experience, Christians learned a bitter lesson. We cannot -- we must not -- disengage from our culture. We cannot leave the story of our nation -- and its resulting moral lessons -- in the hands of others. If we do, our children will be taught half-truths and (sometimes) outright lies. The values that we hold dear will be ridiculed and considered ancient vestiges of a long-rejected "puritan" past.
The story of Bill Clinton was and is a vital part of Christian cultural engagement. If we remain silent, we know how history will be written: "William Jefferson Clinton -- talented and successful president who presided over nearly a decade of peace and prosperity -- impeached after a religious and politically-motivated attack on his private sexual behavior -- prevailed against his opponents and was ultimately instrumental in leading America past a puritanical assault on newly-formed (and still fragile) rights to sexual and personal autonomy." If we remain silent, the costs will be real. Future Christians and social conservatives who attempt to hold political leaders (and fellow citizens) to a standard of personal integrity will be shamed into silence by reference to their "long-discredited" attempts to "impose their private moral vision" on a tolerant and sexually mature American public.
Fortunately, with the rise of internet journalism and alternative radio and television media outlets, the marketplace of ideas is more vibrant than ever. We can (and should) utilize every medium at our disposal to help tell the story of our nation and our culture. This weblog is one small part of that effort -- an effort to bend or curve (hence, the rather silly name of this site) the culture back to allegiance to God and to a respect for the values and ideals that truly liberate. So . . . if and when Bill Clinton injects himself into the national dialogue (as he did when floated the idea of a television talk show) I will be there to remind my readers who he is and what he did. We cannot allow him to have the last word.
NEWSMAGAZINE UPDATE (dangerous world edition): Newsweek reports on major military operations underway to capture bin Laden; Time goes inside Saddam's Iraq and finds that he's working feverishly to build the bomb; and U.S. News says that (surprise, surprise) some defense contractors are making a mint off the war.