Today is February 28, and this is the day for all good bloggers to publish the Danish cartoons. Yes, this cartoon is one of the twelve that has resulted in demonstrations and riots around the world, and the deaths of some 150 people. Newspapers have been shut down, publishers have lost their jobs, and editors and publishers are sitting in jail in some countries. Yet no major American newspaper - and certainly not the Boston Globe - can bring themselves to print these cartoons. See the whole lot over at Michelle Malkin's blog. The GatewayPundit has lots of links to articles about this matter, scroll to the bottom.
This article from Brussels Journal deals with the apparent collapse of European society from within, as Europe leaves its Christianity behind:
"By subverting the roots of its own Judeo-Christian culture – a process that started with the French Enlightenment (as opposed to the Scottish Enlightenment, which was not anti-religious) – a religious and cultural vacuum was created at the heart of European civilization. The collapse of faith in its own values has, not surprisingly, led to a demographic collapse because a civilization that no longer believes in its own future also rejects procreation. Today, a new religion and culture is supplanting the old one. There is little one can do about it, but hope for a miracle."
"In Europe a secularized post-Christian culture is facing a Muslim one. The secularized culture is hedonist and values only its present life, because it does not believe in an afterlife. This is why it will surrender when threatened with death because life is the only thing it has to lose. This is why it will accept submission without fighting for its freedom. Nobody fights for the flag of hedonism, not even the hedonists themselves."
"....America, unlike secular Europe, has remained rooted to a larger extent in traditional Christian values. I do not doubt that if these values continue to decline in the U.S., American culture will collapse as European culture and civilisation have collapsed. However, America can learn from the impending European catastrophe, and avoid a similar fate."
I do wonder why Christianity has apparently largely died out in Europe. It seems that the great cathedrals in France are thronged with tourists, but not with worshippers going to Mass, much like the beautiful cathedrals in Montreal. Does this decline in religiosity reflect a fundamental weakness in the religion? How will Christianity survive another millenium? Will Christianity light up again somewhere else in the world? Once a society is post-Christian, is there anything that can bring it back?
I think that Christianity (and its predecessor- if that's the right word- Judaism) are the very backbone and nerve system of our modern civilization. But the secular folk, the "progressive humanists" so absorbed in their self-actualization, seem ignorant of the contributions of Judaism and Christianity to the modern world. The way we think, what we value, how we structure our government, how we conduct business, if we feel a twinge when we tell a lie, the kinds of art we create, the music we listen to - these things didn't come from secularism or paganism, they came from the Church. While non-religious people are only too eager to tally the misdeeds of the Church over it long history, they are oblivious and unappreciative of its many contribution to the modern world and their very own free-thinking mindset.
I'm liking what I'm hearing from the Vatican these days:
"After backing calls by Muslims for respect for their religion in the Mohammad cartoons row, the Vatican is now urging Islamic countries to reciprocate by showing more tolerance toward their Christian minorities.....After criticizing both the cartoons and the violent protests in Muslim countries that followed, the Vatican this week linked the issue to its long-standing concern that the rights of other faiths are limited, sometimes severely, in Muslim countries.
Vatican prelates have been concerned by recent killings of two Catholic priests in Turkey and Nigeria. Turkish media linked the death there to the cartoons row. At least 146 Christians and Muslims have died in five days of religious riots in Nigeria.
"If we tell our people they have no right to offend, we have to tell the others they have no right to destroy us," Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's Secretary of State (prime minister), told journalists in Rome.
"We must always stress our demand for reciprocity in political contacts with authorities in Islamic countries and, even more, in cultural contacts," Foreign Minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo told the daily Corriere della Sera.
The Vatican is sounding a lot different these days on Christian-Muslim relations and the plight of Christians in Muslim countries.
Bravo Pope Benedict!
Why can't our President or our State Department say things like that?
Please check out the January/February 2006 issue of The Atlantic, it's a must read (Pope Benedict is on the cover). Caitlin Flanagan's article "Are You There God? It's Monica" is an in-depth look at how many American girls have come to be very casual about sex. Flanagan begins with a discussion of the "genuine and puzzling change in teen sexual behaviour" seen in middle- and upper-class teenage girls. She recounts how attitudes about sex, chastity and pornography have radically changed since her teenage years. The article is a lengthy and comprehensive review of of our culture, including Judy Blume's books, Oprah and Dr. Phil shows about "girls gone wild," rap music, Planned Parenthood's website for teens, baby boomer parenting, the widespread acceptance of pornography, and much more.
Flanagan laments that 30 years ago, her own mother could rely on the whole culture to support her, something that we no longer have. This strikes me as quite true. Schools and churches, which once were reliable partners in raising and discipling kids, are now largely leaving it all up to the parents. As a priest in my church recently told me "It's not our job to tell teens how to dress at church, that's the parents' job." Well, priests could help the parents do that instead of saying nothing about the matter, and priests had plenty to say about it 30 years ago.In our neighborhood, my mother could and did count on all the parents to keep an eye on her kids, and to keep us in line. I imagine that's rare today.
Key concept #1 from the article: "As a parent, I am horrified by the changes that have taken place in the common culture in the past thirty years....The "it takes a village" [to raise a child] philosophy is a joke, because the village is now so polluted and so desolate of commonly-held, child-appropriate moral values that my job as a mother is not to rely on the village, but to protect my children from it."
Key concept #2: "And here are America's girls: experienced beyond their years, lacking any clear message from the adult community about about the importance of protecting their modesty, adrift in one of the most explicitly sexualized cultures in the history of the world."
Although it's a bit of a depressing read, I'm nonetheless encouraged that this viewpoint is being heard more and more in the mainstream media. It's no longer only the religious conservatives who are sounding the alarm, there's a wider recognition that our society has gone too far and our children and teenagers are suffering for it. Of course, if you want to read more about how society used to support young women's modesty, or about the connection between cutting and feeling a lack on control in dating, it's all in Wendy Shalit's book from seven years ago, A Return to Modesty. Wendy was very cutting edge!
I found a curious article via Drudgereport about Anita Roddick. The Body Shop founder says "she despairs of the "pimp and whore" culture in which pop stars simulate sex and celebrities talk proudly about visiting lap-dancing clubs." Says Anita: "A lot of people seem to think it's cool to be a pimp or a whore. It's not cool. The reality is dark and evil and appalling and unregulated. The reality is sexual trafficking......I don't get it." I'm struck that I haven't heard anyone (famous) make that very obvious point before, that the sex indutry - so glorified on MTV - is incredibly dangerous and degrading. She notes that by current standards, a young woman is not considered pretty or sexy unless she dresses like Beyonce or Brittany.
She further connects the dots by noting "And then you hear the statistics that we have the most violent young women in Europe because of binge drinking. I haven't got much hope. Something's gone very wrong." Since Anita Roddick is a enormously successful and widely respected businesswoman, I'm glad that she's speaking out.
What I found curious in that article is the mention of her daughter' Sam's business, the erotic emporium Coco de Mer , "which sells fair-trade kinky handcuffs" and purports to celebrate sex without exploiting women. Ahem. (The term "fair-trade kinky handcuffs" reminds me why I'm no longer a liberal. Surely you jest.) Life is so full of incongruities and inconsistencies, such as the apparent disconnect between mother and daughter's outlooks on this issue.
Came very close to naming my blog "Fair Trade Kinky Handcuffs" ............
If you're looking for fur pillows or Mongolian lamb footstools, then you need to go to my Transfurmation website. Lots of beautiful stuff there, all recycled fur from gorgeous mink and fox and sheared beaver coats, which I (and my helpers) carefully make into home and fashion accessories. When you realize that you need a fur pillow in your home - and everyone does - you know where to go!
A letter to the editor printed in today's Boston Globe about torture in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was accompanied by a photo of the torture. Since when does the Boston Globe print photos in the Letters to the Editor section? So I jotted yet another letter to the Globe editor:
I hate to be a broken record here, but when I opened the Globe editorial pages today and see yet another Abu Ghraib photo, I must protest. That photo was from 2003. The whole reprehensible Abu Ghraib torture treatment was exposed by a member of the US military, and some 25 people have been put on trial for it. Why are you printing more photos now?
The Globe can print a photo from almost three years ago, but you can't print cartoons that have resulted In protests and riots around the world, which have resulted in 45 deaths?
In the Ombudsman's recent column explaining why the Globe wouldn't print the Mohammed cartoons, he wrote: "Freedom of speech means that news organizations have the liberty to decide whether or not something meets strict standards of accuracy, fairness, and taste for the sake of the community." Does it meet the Boston Globe's strict standards of "accuracy, fairness, and taste for the sake of the community" to print 3-year old torture photos? Does the editor think that the reader wouldn't otherwise understand what the letter was about? Is the Boston Globe completely unconcerned with further fanning anti-American resentment in Iraq, which could very well result in more harm to US soldiers? Do these concerns ever factor into your decision-making?
Publishing that photo in today's paper was unnecessary and disgusting.
"This was the culmination of a series of disturbing instances of self-censorship. Last September, a Danish children's writer had trouble finding an illustrator for a book about the life of Muhammad. Three people turned down the job for fear of consequences. The person who finally accepted insisted on anonymity, which in my book is a form of self-censorship. European translators of a critical book about Islam also did not want their names to appear on the book cover beside the name of the author, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who has herself been in hiding."
"Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy."
"Submission" is, of coure, also the name of a short movie which addresses abuse of women in Muslim societies. The movie was scripted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the Dutch politician from Somalia referred to above) and directed by Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by radical Muslims in Amsterdam in November 2004.