Through Bloodied Teeth, Alfie Evans’ Dad Says He Now Loves Big Brother

Rachel Stoltzfoos got the scoop. She dug out of a report in the (UK) Telegraph the following piece of plutonium:

the judge said the best Alfie’s parents could hope for was to “explore” the options of removing him from intensive care either to a ward, a hospice or his home.

But a doctor treating Alfie, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that for Alfie to be allowed home would require a “sea change” in attitude from the child’s family, and they feared that in the “worst case” they would try to take the boy abroad.

As Stoltzfoos wrote: “[T]he hospital staff is not interested in what’s best for Alfie, so much as proving a point to the parents, who have an ‘attitude’ they don’t like. …. In sum: The doctors have determined Alfie must die, and he must die in the hospital, unless the parents change their attitude.”

They don’t just want to beat us. They feel the need to break us.

Britain Breaks a Man

And the parents got the message. In a heartbreaking but totally understandable turn of events, Alfie’s father Tom has flown the white flag. Desperate no doubt to spend his son’s last few hours cradling him in his arms, he called on his supporters to disband. As The Mirror reports:

Alfie Evans’s father has made a dramatic u-turn tonight as he praised Alder Hey staff hours after claiming doctors “hate” the family and treat them “like criminals.”

Tom Evans has called on ‘Alfie’s Army to ‘stand down’ and asked for supporters to ” allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it.”

His ‘final’ statement, which praised staff for ‘dignity and professionalism,’ came after he reportedly spent this afternoon in talks with the hospital.

The 21-year-old had earlier suggested Alfie could live for “months, possibly years,” and vowed to go back to court if today’s meeting “doesn’t go well”.

His comments also came just hours after it was revealed NHS staff in Liverpool have been told to hide their uniforms over fears of abuse.

Protesters across London, Belfast and Washington DC have marched in support of Alfie today after previous backing from Poland and Vatican and Italy.

A Boot Crushing a Human Face, Forever

My heart sank reading that, in just the way it did at the end of 1984. Remember when Winston Smith, after weeks of interrogation and diabolical torture, finally breaks down? When he goes beyond pretending that 2+2=5, and actually comes to believe it? And whatever is left of his mind thinks that it really does “love Big Brother.”

No one could possibly blame Mr. Evans. He has been tested past any point of endurance. The callous British state holds his little son hostage. It will kill him, one way or the other.

But as one of Orwell’s or C.S. Lewis’ villains might have explained to Evans, it doesn’t have to be painful. The child needn’t die of thirst, alone, deprived of his parents. The Catholic priest Evans called doesn’t have to stay barred from the room. I think I can offer a virtual transcript of what was said to poor Mr. Evans:

All of this is quite, quite unnecessary. And indeed, most unfortunate. No one wanted a brouhaha, Mr. Evans. But we can’t have you stirring up this kind of discord. Did you know we had to task local police with monitoring your supporters’ Facebook posts? We actually had to threaten to knock on doors and arrest people. That doesn’t seem very English, now does it? But you left us no choice.

Now all of that could go away, in the blink of an eye. It’s entirely up to you. We’ve drafted a statement. … It’s based on the words of your very own R.C. Bishop of Liverpool. Do you think you know better than he, Mr. Evans? Than the doctors, and judges, and experts whom we’ve assembled at quite considerable cost? Are you really so sure that you’re right? So sure that you’ll abandon Alfie to die alone? It’s your decision, Mr. Evans. You are, as they like to say, a ‘free Englishman.’ Here’s the statement, and a pen.

Land of the Free?

Those of us shocked to see this sick, pornographic abuse of parental rights and human dignity in the nation of Magna Carta ought to remember: George Orwell based his nightmare of tyranny on trends he saw in Britain. His villains are British villains. Likewise when C.S. Lewis wrote That Hideous Strength, he wasn’t depicting the cruelties of German Nazis or Soviet commissars. He drew on the petty tyrants he met in faculty lounges at Cambridge. Tolkien ended The Lord of the Rings with the “scouring of the Shire.” It showed the thuggish side that can emerge when Englishmen get drunk on wicked ideas.

Yes, England was the land of Magna Carta. But also of tyrant King John. Of Thomas More, who chose to die for his conscience. But also of Thomas Cromwell, who raped the nation’s monasteries, closed all its charities, and gave the stolen gold to Henry VIII to squander in just one (failed) war against the French. In legend, it’s the land of Robin Hood, but also of Guy of Gisborne. The same schools that produced a Winston Churchill churned out a string of Stalinist spies.

No one could possibly blame Mr. Evans. He has been tested past any point of endurance. The callous British state holds his little son hostage. It will kill him, one way or the other.

When British voters chose Brexit, they demanded their freedom and sovereignty. Ordinary men like Tom Evans voted for it in the millions. And their outraged elites have spent every moment since then trying to subvert or reverse their decision. Likewise, Americans by a whisker chose Donald Trump. And our elites, minus the powdered wigs and slightly more archaic language, have spent the past year and half doing the same.

It Can Happen Here. It’s Happening Now.

In our land, the California district attorney tries to imprison pro-life reporters. That state’s legislature plans to censor biblical speech. In New York, sidewalk counselors fight gag rules so they can witness outside abortion clinics. In Austin, the Texas Association of Business helped defeat a bill protecting pastors from prison for refusing same-sex weddings. It’s not that it can happen here. It’s happening here. As you read this.

Ronald Reagan famously said that liberty is always just one generation away from extinction. Let me solemnly say it: Now we are just one presidential election away. That is how drunk with power our enemies are.

They don’t just want to beat us. They feel the need to break us. And as the case of Tom and Alfie Evans shows us, they really will stop at nothing.

Write by John Zmirak

The Pain Capable Abortion Bill: We Should Save Whom We Can

The House has passed a brilliant bill that would protect unborn children from elective abortion after 20 weeks, the threshold at which they can likely feel pain. We should be grateful. We should also be thankful to have a president who has promised to sign such a law. We almost had Hillary Clinton, who threw off the moderate mask she wore in Arkansas, and supports abortion on demand for sex selection at taxpayer expense right up to the moment of birth. That is how fanatical the Democratic party has become on this issue.

Yes, we’re worried (and slightly depressed that we must even worry) that a Republican-controlled Senate might not pass such a timid advance in civil rights for unborn babies. But we can now put to rest the myth of the pro-life Democrat. On abortion, the party is comprised of bitter ideologues, impervious to reason.

SHOULD WE SLUM WITH CHINA AND NORTH KOREA?

That much becomes clear with their closed-ranks opposition to the latest bill. It seeks to remove the U.S from a tiny club of pariah nations like China and North Korea that still kill unborn children once they’re this close to birth. It tries to apply to unborn human children at least the same humane treatment we seek in the slaughter of cattle: minimizing pain, as much as possible. (When doctors perform operations on unborn babies at 20 weeks, they use anesthetic. Why would that be?)

Will we speak up?

Turkish Attack Threatens Christians, and the Best Hope for Freedom in the Middle East. Will We Speak Up?

A few months back, I wrote here about a unique chance for freedom and peace in the Middle East. There are countless regimes that crush their people. Which oppress religious minorities. Which flout the rights of women. But an island of human rights has risen above the waves. Its government grows from the ground up, not the top down. Muslims are fully respected, but sharia is not imposed. Christians and Yazidis are safe from the rape gangs of ISIS, and murder gangs of al Qaeda. No secular despot imprisons imams or shuts down Muslim madrasas. Women have full civil rights. They serve in the legislature and form their own self-defense units.

I mean the Federation of Northern Syria. That’s the part of Syria where Kurdish Muslims and Syriac Christians, Sunni Arabs and Yezidis, fought for their freedom and won. They allied with the U.S. Then they defeated ISIS. They established precisely the kind of free, fair institutions which the U.S. tried and failed to set up in Iraq. The Federation became a magnet for refugees seeking freedom and safety for their families. It’s the ideal U.S. partner for rebuilding the nation of Syria. It’s a beacon to hundreds of millions in the region who seek a better life.

Turkey Bombing Christians in Syria

And now the Islamist regime of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is trying to bomb it all into splinters. The Daily Telegraph reports:

Turkey said Friday that it would press ahead with a full scale assault on a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria despite pleas from the US to hold back. 

Ankara has been threatening for days to send its forces into Afrin, a Syrian district near the Turkish border controlled by Kurdish forces who are allied with the US but mortal enemies of Turkey. 

Turkish troops shelled the area on Friday and said it was moving units of commandos near the border as well as mobilising pro-Turkish Syrian rebel groups for the attack.

The Turks are using their regular army along with jihadist militias to assault the peaceful, legal government of the Federation of Northern Syria. The Turks are bombing civilian areas, threatening women and children. Among those most terrified by the attack? The growing population of Kurds who have discovered Jesus Christ, and formed a church. Below is a letter I got this morning, pleading for help.

A Desperate Appeal from New Christians

 

The Kurdish Churches in Efrin and Kobane
Members of The Kurdish Church Network International

20 January, 2018

To Whom It May Concern,

CHRISTIAN CHURCHES UNDER TURKISH ATTACKS IN AFRIN, NORTH SYRIA

As  the  Leaders  of  the  Christian  churches  in  North  Syria,  in  the  town  of  Efrin  we  hereby  confirm that we are under attack by Turkey.

The lives of our women and children are in danger. The  city  of  Afrin  is  being  bombarded  by  Turkish  airstrikes.    We  are  asking  for  intervention,  and protection against the violent attacks which are being levied against us at this moment.

Many lives are in mortal danger. We are requesting aid and assistance. We are unable to protect ourselves or our families against these attacks, neither are we able to offer assistance or shelter to the innocents.

Please help us.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Hakim Ali Ismael

Senior Pastor/Network Leader

 

Another plea came to me this morning. It’s from the soldiers themselves, the Syrian Democratic Forces. These were the men and women who spared the U.S. the bloodshed of fighting ISIS. They liberated Raqqa, and not a single U.S. soldier had to take part in the battle. Below is their statement on this unprovoked Turkish attack.

 

American Allies Under Fire

SDF2.png

 

A NATO Member Going Rogue

 An apartment building full of civilians, struck by Turkish bombs or shells.

An apartment building full of civilians, struck by Turkish bombs or shells.

So a NATO member, Turkey, is bombing, shelling, and preparing to unleash jihadists on defenseless religious and ethnic minorities who never attacked it. The U.S. has expressed its opposition, but President Trump must go much further. Just last week he declared “Religious Freedom Day,” even as Turkish shells were raining down on Afrin’s churches. There are even reports that Turkey is bombing refugee camps in Syria. American Christians who helped put Trump in office need to speak up. Those brave Christians in Syria are the “least among our brothers.” Helping them now not to fall under their cross is our minimum Christian duty.

 

 A Syrian boy fights for his life after a Turkish shelling of his civilian neighborhood, January 20, 2018.

A Syrian boy fights for his life after a Turkish shelling of his civilian neighborhood, January 20, 2018.

It is also good for America. The Turkish regime has become the rogue state in NATO. Erdogan is blackmailing the EU, demanding visa privileges for his citizens. Otherwise he’ll send more millions of migrants into Europe. Erdogan has interfered in the Dutch elections. He called on Turks in Europe to “outbreed” then outvote the native populations of those countries. He represents a threat to all Western interests, and to America’s friends in the region, including Israel.

Will American Christians Speak Up?

At this very moment Turkey is moving into Afrin the very same troops that shouted: “Christians and Americans have no place among us.”Will the U.S. meekly stand by and watch this happen? Is it okay now for jihadis to invade neighboring countries and kill their Christians? I challenge my fellow American Christians: contact the Trump Administration. Demand action before more U.S. allies are killed. Call your congressman and senator. And on Sunday bring the cause of these hunted Christians and other innocents with you to God in prayer.

It’s time for the U.S. to draw a line in the sand. Send a token contingent of soldiers to Afrin, and watch Erdogan fold. He wants to snuff out the sparks of human freedom in the region, and to squelch American influence. Don’t let him get away with it.

Dear Catholics of Mexico and America: Let's Talk Border Control

Since the election of President Donald Trump, American and Mexican bishops have issued statement after statement about border enforcement and migration. Unfortunately, each of their pronouncements is more heated and unhelpful than the last.

When the Archdiocese of Mexico City accused Mexican businessmen of “treason” for supporting Donald Trump’s border wall, I wrote an open letter to the Mexican bishops. By publicly shaming their flock at the outset, these bishops were squandering an opportunity for leadership. I begged them to reconsider.

Similarly, when my friend Steve Bannon expressed his opinion about DACA, several Church leaders attacked him publicly. When they did so, they showed their failure to grasp a point Bannon made in the first place:

When it comes to policy issues like these, we’re all equals who deserve a hearing, and a bishop is just “another guy with an opinion”—not a moral authority who must be obeyed on pain of sin. 

 

Laypeople Have a Duty to Lead the Border Debate, Not Bishops

Bannon’s argument was straight out of the Catechism. It’s the distinction between

  1. The absolute and binding moral principles of our faith.

    Bishops are meant to lead laymen like you, me, and Steve Bannon by painting the bright-red lines of faith and morals that we are bound to follow. Laymen can’t dissent from these principles and still consider themselves Catholics in any meaningful sense.

  2. Prudential questions as to how to enact those principles in the world.

    Laymen have a duty to take the lead in Christianizing the world around us in everything we do, working always toward a humane culture that is hospitable to our fellowmen. Taking our cues from the timeless teachings of the Church, we should robustly debate how best to apply them in business, politics, art, and activism.

When bishops throw the full weight of their moral authority around, recklessly applying it to prudential policy questions, they discourage us from fulfilling our duty as laypeople to engage in the kind of reasoned, respectful debate that is so needed today.

I don’t even agree with Bannon’s position on DACA. But it’s acceptable for him to express it. What is absolutely unacceptable is that Catholic laymen can’t seem to have a respectful conversation on prudential questions of policy without their own shepherds attempting to shut down the debate with moral condemnations.

Imagine if bishops were to do the same on absolute moral issues like abortion and natural sexuality—as they should! When was the last time we heard a bishop aggressively intervene in the midst of a discussion on LGBT identity politics to slam a layman on the liberal side of the debate?

Secure Borders and Clear Migration Policy: Toward a More Humane Future

Here’s my brief, good-faith effort to set aside all the heated rhetoric and restart the border conversation in a more humane, respectful, and truly Catholic way.

First, I am thankful that President Trump has made it a priority to secure the border between the United States and Mexico, and to implement mandatory verifications of worker eligibility in the United States.

Just like Americans, I believe Mexicans have good reason to see the wisdom of these policies.

For too long, the border has been controlled not by elected governments, but by violent gangs and by people smugglers, who abuse vulnerable people on both sides. Thousands of Mexicans have died in the chaos. Americans have suffered too.

The people of both our nations have also struggled economically. When Mexicans enter the United States illegally to find work, they can’t appeal to our labor and safety laws. Instead, they find themselves trapped in an underground economy that takes advantage of migrants and undercuts American workers’ wages.

Together with a Strong Border and E-Verity, DACA Makes Both America and Mexico Great Again

The economic reality of foreign workers in the United States has existed for so long that it raises another policy question: The status of Dreamers, and the continuation of DACA.

Dreamers were raised here, they were educated here, they married here, and they work here. Their culture, their friends, and their coworkers are American. In many cases, even their spouses are American, and not even of Mexican descent.

I have Mexican friends, and I have American Dreamer friends whose parents migrated from Mexico some twenty years ago. I can tell you, these Dreamers are not Mexicans. They are Americans.

I was glad to see President Trump make a similar observation when he recently tweeted, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”

Since Dreamers are Americans in fact, it is only right that they should be Americans by law.

As an American and a Catholic layman, I feel it’s my duty to begin this dialogue. I hope my Catholic brothers and sisters both in Mexico and America will join me. We shouldn’t be aiming for each other’s throats. We should aim for the common good, and a win-win solution that benefits both the people of Mexico and the people of the United States.

Each of our great nations has the right to control its border. And when we do, we defend the rights of our people. A secure border and a mandatory employee verification system for workers in the United States will move both our nations toward a much more humane future.

'Where is Your God Now?' The Atheists Sneer as We Mourn our Dead

It takes a lot to shock me. I’ve been at Operation Rescue protests where cops obeyed orders to brutalize pro-life teens and seniors.

I saw a pro-abortion crowd shout down and silence Democratic Governor Robert Casey and Village Voice columnist Nat Henthoff. As a grad student in English, I took part in the pro-life “Summer of Mercy” at Baton Rouge abortion clinics — only to find most of the senior faculty of the department (people who could stymie my degree) lined up on the other side.

One of them was carefully videotaping each of our faces. (I waved and carefully spelled out my name for him.)

But this weekend, after the slaughter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, even I found myself stunned. I summed it up briefly on Twitter:

and...

and finally....

Is Trump a Blessing or Curse for Religious Conservatives?

Donal Trump .jpg

How are religious conservatives doing in the polarizing and often stumbling presidency of Donald Trump? Ross Douthat, a Times columnist, hosts a “round table” with David French, a senior writer at National Review, and John Zmirak, senior editor of The Stream and author, most recently, of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism.”

Ross Douthat: John, David, thanks for joining me today. The aftermath of Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama seems like a good time to take stock of the bargain that religious conservatives made when they decided to support Donald Trump for president.

A year in, Trump has delivered on many of his specific promises, particularly where judicial appointments are concerned. At the same time, there’s a great deal of angst within religious circles about what his personal moral defects and his administration’s deep unpopularity mean for Christian cultural witness, and (among evangelicals, especially) whether the Trump era is setting up a kind of generational schism that will contribute to institutional Christianity’s crisis going forward.

David, you’re a prominent anti-Trump evangelical. John, you’ve been a fairly consistently pro-Trump Catholic. Can you each give me your view of what the Trump presidency has meant for religious conservatism?

John Zmirak: Thanks, Ross. So far, I must say that I’m genuinely pleased and impressed by Trump’s performance on most of the issues of concern to socially conservative voters and Christians. It contrasts sharply with how mainstream Republican candidates and presidents treated such voters. Think back to 1996, when a handful of evangelical leaders were able to steer their flocks away from Pat Buchanan — who would have been their champion — to Bob Dole, who muttered reluctant compliance with a few of their interests, but clearly didn’t care a fig about abortion or other culture issues.

What we saw in 2016 is that a small group of “respectable” ministers or lobbyists no longer has the power to “deliver” Christian voters. And I think that’s a good, healthy thing. It gives us more leverage, as we seem to have with Trump.

Furthermore, and I have this from pastors who met with Trump for many hours: He genuinely listens to them. They’re the kind of people most playboys from Queens never encounter. He connected with some of them personally. He saw their concern for his soul. And he took and takes their concerns seriously.

Trump sees that the church is a big part of what made America great, and he sees that the state persecution that President Obama began hurts the country. I hope that he sees more, sees Christ as his savior. But in his role as Caesar, protecting our rights is quite enough.

David French: My problem with John’s analysis is quite simple. Christians don’t get to compartmentalize. When we’re the living representatives of Christ’s church, we don’t get to proudly support politicians who lie and commit dishonorable acts for the sake of a few policy wins. I know it’s fashionable to scorn “mainstream” or “respectable” politicians or ministers, but these individuals at least had the virtue — as imperfect as they were — of a degree of personal honor and integrity. The church always must be mindful of its witness, and it can’t sacrifice its moral credibility to a culture by declaring, “I did it for the judges.”

I belong to the camp of Christians who are grateful when Trump makes good decisions but also quite mindful that our political witness is inseparable from our Christian witness. Thus, we have no option but to condemn his worst impulses and work to counteract his toxic influence on our larger culture. While policy positions are important (though Trump’s real impact is often vastly overblown), a nation is ultimately shaped far more by its culture than its policies, and we can never forsake the greater power for the lesser win.

Zmirak: I think it trivializes every issue of justice and life that we both care about to call them public policy “wins.” These are the fates and freedoms of millions of people we’re talking about. Unborn children. Nuns who serve the dying poor. Christians endangered by the Islamic State.

Douthat: But John, do you think there’s anything dangerous in the close association between a Christian politics and a president who is so proudly un-Christian in word and often deed?

Zmirak: Trump’s personal behavior in the past is of no real concern to me — nor to most of the Christian voters I’m in touch with. The more we find out about the disgusting actions in office of not just Bill Clinton but also John F. Kennedy … it helps encourage an Augustinian shrug.

French: I find it curious when Christians declare that the personal conduct of a president is of no real concern — especially since that’s the exact opposite message that Christians have been preaching for a generation. During the latter part of the Bill Clinton presidency, the Southern Baptist Convention put out a powerful statement on the importance of virtuous conduct in leaders, regardless of the state of the economy or the quality of the policymaking. Part of the justification for that statement was the biblical truth that God has judged nations in part for their unrighteous rulers. In other words, Christians can’t and shouldn’t laser-focus on policy but always must be mindful of eternity. Do we believe the Bible? Or are we just another interest group that makes cold, purely political calculations?

Zmirak: We’re fallen creatures trying to render unto Caesar as well as unto God. The nexus between those two is how we as sovereign citizens direct our government to treat the vulnerable.

We supported Constantine, and Harry Truman, and many other imperfect men who were better than the alternatives. I don’t even expect saintly behavior of popes, much less of presidents. If the circumstances in which God saw fit to place us make us choose between the “squeaky clean” persecutor of the unborn and the Little Sisters of the Poor, or between Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the choice is obvious. If we pick the persecutor because he pleases us more aesthetically, better fits our internal self-image, then we will answer for that on the Day of Judgment.

The Hollywood that was howling for Trump’s head over the “Access Hollywood” tape, we now know, had been mopping up for Harvey Weinstein for decades. I don’t expect Christians to be naïve or prissy. We know more about sin than most people, since we believe it in fact exists. And can be repented.

Douthat: So when we see polls showing a wild swing between the 1990s and the present in the share of evangelicals who think character matters in a politician, John, you think evangelicals are actually coming around to a more sensible view than they held in the Clinton era?

Zmirak: Yes. Just as evangelicals are coming around to using Natural Law (philosophical) arguments — rather than biblical proof-texts for their political positions, I think they are moving closer to the skeptical prudence that always marked Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican political thinking. Read what the Family Research Council, or National Organization for Marriage, publish on social issues. They’re not thumping the Bible. They’re citing Cicero and Aristotle.

French: I’m sorry, but the transformation of the evangelical public from the American segment most willing to hold leaders to a high moral standard to the segment now least likely smacks of pure, primitive partisanship, not high theological principle. Evangelicals aren’t coming around to using Natural Law at all. It’s pure instrumentalism. They’ve made an alliance of convenience. They haven’t made some sort of thoughtful intellectual shift.

Douthat: My views align pretty closely with yours, David, so let me play devil’s advocate (if you will) against our shared perspective. Suppose that Trump appoints another Supreme Court justice, ensuring both the persistence of an expansive understanding of religious liberty and widening the possibilities for pro-life legislation. And further suppose that some of the dire consequences of a Trump presidency that some of us feared — stock market plunges, accidental nuclear wars — don’t materialize. Is there any scenario where you might come around to the view that the bargain was, in fact, worth making?

French: I am very willing to be persuaded that he will ultimately be a better president than Hillary Clinton. I was opposed to both Clinton and Trump in the general election on the grounds that both were unfit — though in different ways. So I’m genuinely happy when Trump accomplishes good things, relieved when he tempers his worst impulses, and more than willing to give him credit when credit is due. For example, the success of the campaign against the Islamic State is an underappreciated part of his presidency.

However, for the sake of encouraging or even achieving these policy wins, Christians cannot be seen to excuse lies, rationalize incompetence or impose double standards. A person can simultaneously say that Trump has accomplished good things while also seeking to hold him to a proper standard of conduct. My great disappointment during this first year of the Trump presidency is not with evangelicals who have rightly lauded, say, the Neil Gorsuch appointment, but rather with Christians who’ve defended, rationalized and excused conduct they’d never, ever condone in a Democrat. There are not two standards of morality depending on judicial appointments or regulatory reform.

Douthat: And then to you, John — I take your point about not underestimating the importance of policy wins, but the policy defeats of religious conservatism have been bound up in cultural defeats, particularly the secularization or spiritual-but-not-religious turn of younger generations in America. Trump is extremely unpopular, he’s enabling a G.O.P. whose agenda is widely hated, and his administration hasn’t even faced a real testing — war or terrorism or economic crisis. For groups outside the Republican coalition, especially — like millennials drifting from religion and the churchgoing African-Americans who just turned out in droves to defeat Roy Moore — isn’t there the potential for them to be scandalized by lock step religious conservative support for a presidency that most of America sees as failed from Year 1?

Zmirak: I think much of the drift is driven not by politics but by internal scandals, like the sex abuse crisis among Catholics, and financial scandals among evangelicals.

But to politics: Were Christians scandalized by the spectacle of George W. Bush leaving Iraqi Christians to face jihadi violence? They should have been. It was far worse than anything Trump has done. I must confess that I am deeply embittered by the callousness that George W. Bush displayed toward the lives and liberties of religious minorities in Iraq — when as U.S. commander in chief, he had essentially absolute power over that occupied country. Of about one million Christians, some 900,000 were ethnically cleansed, most of them while our troops still occupied the country. I can put up with Donald Trump’s old Howard Stern tapes all day long, compared with that.

In Syria, Trump aided the Kurdish militias allied with Syrian Christians. Now instead of a massive catastrophe for an ancient Christian community, there are Christmas trees going up in Damascus again. Christian pastors in America who helped Trump during the campaign have been keeping Trump apprised of the real-world, on the ground concerns of Syrian Christians. None of that happened under Bush.

I don’t think the savage hatred of Donald Trump is mostly driven by his genuine excesses. Trump is serving as a catalyst to expose just how unhinged, anti-Christian, anti-Western, and frankly anti-rational the dominant factions on the left have become.

Douthat: I do think the shadow of the Bush administration, which at first seemed to represent a coming-of-age for a Catholic-evangelical alliance and ended in military quagmire and political impotence, is important for understanding how religious conservatism ended up in its present situation. David, what’s your view on the effects of the Bush legacy?

French: I served in Iraq and find the Trumpist critiques of Bush to be rather tired. The Bush administration faced a difficult strategic situation, made a good-faith, high-stakes decision, and none of the armchair-quarterbacking of the more isolationist Republicans can change the fact that by the end of Bush’s second term the war in Iraq was largely won. Al Qaeda in Iraq was a spent force until the combination of American withdrawal, the Syrian civil war and the dark turn of the Arab Spring revived its fortunes. Now it’s defeated again. Moreover, to blame the plight of Middle East Christians on Bush is to magnify his influence far too much. They have faced worse in countries America didn’t invade.

Douthat: But don’t you think that the arc of the Bush era, the sense of political collapse at the end, helps explain why many of the people who were most bonded to Bush — religious conservatives — have been willing to turn since to more disreputable or extreme political leaders?

French: The hatred of Bush is more a feature of the small Buchanan wing of the G.O.P. than it is of the Republican mainstream. The Democratic nomination of Hillary Clinton was far more important to Trump’s success than anything that George W. Bush did. Don’t forget, older Republicans (which is most Republicans) had been fighting Clinton for the better part of a quarter-century. The rallying cry of the G.O.P. wasn’t to turn the page on the Bush era but rather to defeat Hillary. As of today, Bush has a higher approval rating than Trump.

Douthat: And John, since I’ve pressed David on scenarios where he might judge the Trump bargain a success, what would have to happen in the next few years to make you think that he’s right, and that the negative consequences of the Trumpist bargain will ultimately eclipse Neil Gorsuch’s influence on the legal and political order?

Zmirak: If Trump follows bad advice, and gets us mired in some foreign intervention where thousands of U.S. troops are bogged down in pursuit of ideological fantasies. Or if he betrays us on the courts. Or if he fails to get control of our borders. In other words, if he welches on any of the fundamental promises he made conservatives to gain our support, then I’ll feel cheated.

Douthat: But you really don’t worry at all about the possibility that 60 percent of the country will exit the Trump era convinced that conservative Christianity is just white identity politics?

Zmirak: No, I think that’s something that worries conservatives who mix in elite circles more than anyone else. Black Christians know that their own politics has a certain amount of ethnic self-advocacy in it. Likewise Latino Christians. They aren’t really scandalized that it’s also in the mix with white voters. But they want to see it subordinated to moral norms, for the sake of the common good. And I think Trump is doing that.

French: This is just false. I live in rural Tennessee, and the folks who go to my church don’t want conservative Christianity to be seen in this way. There’s nothing elitist about wanting the Christian church to be seen as a force for racial reconciliation. In fact, the most grass-roots churches in the U.S. — our Pentecostal churches — are often the most racially diverse. The white Christians I know are in fact scandalized at the idea that church identity is mixed with ethnic self-advocacy.

Douthat: Let me end with a provocation. It seems to me that the example of Western Europe, where secularization is more advanced than here and Islamic radicalism a more systemic social problem, has played an underestimated role in shaping conservative Christian instincts in the Trump era. That the pro-Trump voices, like you, John, see him as a bulwark against the trends that have marginalized traditional Christianity in France or England or Germany, while Trump critics (like myself and perhaps you, David) fear that by leading American Christians into defeat and disrepute, he will hasten us down the road to European secularism. What do you both think of this frame?

Zmirak: In an age when Pope Francis compares critics of the Islamic colonization of Europe to King Herod murdering the infants of Bethlehem (see his 2013 Lampedusa speech), it’s falling to secular leaders to pass on the authentic Christian political tradition. That’s not utopianism or Machiavellianism. It’s realism grounded in Prudence, the governing natural virtue. Instead of indulging ourselves in a fit of self-congratulation on our generosity and openness, we have to consider the legitimate claims of nations, the danger of future political violence, and the ugly lessons of nations like Lebanon where Christians once lived in freedom. Or Sweden, where big anti-Semitic rallies are now a regular reality. To do any less is reckless, which means it’s un-Christian.

French: There is no question that conservative Christians are very concerned about America’s secular drift, and they look to Europe’s thoroughly post-Christian culture with a degree of alarm, if not horror. This concern contributed to the “Flight 93 election” mind-set that cast the 2016 contest as the campaign that would decide our national fate. That election was the emergency that justified wholesale Christian shifts in political principle. Where Christians once demanded honesty, they rationalized lies. Where Christians once sought evidence of ideological consistency, they accepted incoherence.

Many of us, however, looked at these accommodations and asked a simple question. Where is your faith? Christians were acting as if not just the nation — but the church itself — was in peril based on the outcome of a single election. Yet is God not sovereign over all the nations, including our own? Doesn’t scripture repeatedly condemn the exact kinds of moral compromises that so many Christians made? Don’t we believe those scriptures?

There is nothing more dangerous to the church than a lack of faith. I don’t at all mind it when Christians cheer the good things that Donald Trump has done. I join them. I do mind when they rationalize and excuse bad acts out of a completely misguided and faithless sense of cultural and political necessity.

Douthat: Thank you both for a spirited conversation, gentlemen. When we reconvene in 20 years under secular socialism, Shariah law or a Mike Pence-governed Gilead, we can discuss how it all turned out.

Will U.S. Catholic Bishops Choose Life

We don’t look to The Wall Street Journal for its religion reporting. But a recent piecestands out. It shows American Catholicism at a crossroads. It’s rare that a single decision decides the future of a church in a nation. But we face such a moment now. As the Journal explains, the bishops will vote on a crucial staff post. Who will lead the Church’s pro-life efforts?

The vote is down to two candidates — Cardinal Blase Cupich, of Chicago, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City — who represent the ideological poles of the U.S. church and have articulated different visions of what being pro-life should mean.

“I HAVE SET BEFORE YOU THIS DAY LIFE AND GOOD, DEATH AND EVIL.“

Read Christopher Manion at The Wanderer on what a fine pastor Archbishop Naumann is. Manion noted how

Archbishop Naumann ended diocesan ties to the Girl Scouts of America because it was pro-abortion. He and other Kansan bishops produced a video prior to the 2016 elections to be shown in all parishes that carried a statement to keep ‘the human rights catastrophe’ of abortion ‘at the forefront of their minds when voting’ as a ‘moral obligation’ for Catholics.

Cardinal Cupich represents the polar opposite approach. He has embarrassed himself repeatedly. How? Through blunt, foolish, partisan moralism on public policy. In a 2015 an Open Letter, Jason Jones called out Cupich. He cited Cupich’s

op-ed in response to the Planned Parenthood videos. As a victim of legal abortion who lost a daughter to it, I cannot imagine how you could have written this:

While commerce in the remains of defenseless children is particularly repulsive, we should be no less appalled by the indifference toward the thousands of people who die daily for lack of decent medical care; who are denied rights by a broken immigration system and by racism; who suffer in hunger, joblessness and want; who pay the price of violence in gun-saturated neighborhoods; or who are executed by the state in the name of justice.

Do you really not see what is uniquely evil about murdering children and selling their parts for profit? As Jesus told us, the poor we will have always with us, and we must advance their interests. But how can you compare the malice of organ-profiteering abortionists with the “indifference” that you (uncharitably?) attribute to fellow citizens who disagree with you about the optimal public policies helping the poor, reducing unemployment and violence and reforming immigration?

Jones on Helping the Vulnerable to Carry the Cross

This week I had the luxury of guest-hosting for Eric Metaxas’ radio show. That meant I could talk to people whom I normally wouldn’t get hold of — drawn by a wide national audience. So I sent Eric’s staff to track down some fairly prominent people. David Daleiden was the first person I chose to interview. But I also used one of the time slots for someone I talk to every week, sometimes every day: filmmaker and activist Jason Jones.

Jason is a regular Stream columnist who co-authored with me the 2014 book The Race to Save Our Century. He talked about several provocative topics. He recounted for Eric’s audience the story of what spurred him into the fight for human rights in the first place: Losing his unborn child, as a teenage dad, to a coerced abortion.

That loss still haunts him, he said. But it also drives him to think pretty deeply about the blind spots in our culture — the willful or careless neglect of the truly vulnerable.

People pretend that they want to stand “in solidarity” with the weak. Far too many, however, jump back when doing so would actually cost them anything. They refuse to have “skin in the game,” to quote Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Antifragile. They want the reputation for virtue without doing the work, the appearance of practicing empathy without the risk of suffering.

“Victimism:” pretending to speak up for victims, while carefully insulating yourself from paying any kind of price.

That addiction to cheap grace and public praise has become a dangerous ideology, Jones said. He cited the work of Christian philosopher Rene Girard, who labeled it “Victimism.” It means that you pretend to speak up for victims, while carefully insulating yourself from paying any kind of price.

Jason laid out three key groups of people whom too many Americans who consider themselves good and compassionate people blithely overlook.

UNBORN CHILDREN

A million or so of these fellow Americans pay the price each year for our quest for sexual liberation. So do their mothers, whom the culture pretends are the “winners” in a war between mother and child. In fact, as Jason points out, any society that pits these two against each other is driving a wedge into its own heart.

To pretend they are enemies, as feminists do, is recipe for misery first, then extinction.

A sane and healthy civilization — one that will survive, in other words — sees mothers and children together, bearers of the image of God who deserve our respect and protection. To pretend they are enemies, as feminists do, is recipe for misery first, then extinction. We can help to bridge this gap by passing laws that give the unborn legal protection.

But we also must reach out to help their mothers — who ought to be babies’ greatest advocates on earth. That these women have been driven to turn against their children is one of the darkest facets of the evil that is abortion. How can we stand alongside them to help? We can start by volunteering at or donating to local crisis pregnancy centers.

Jones made his most personal and heartfelt movie, Crescendo, to benefit such centers. It raised more than $6 million, which went to buy diapers, baby formula and job training materials. You can watch that short film and see why it won awards from mainstream secular film festivals.

EXPLOITED WORKERS

On this issue both the political left and the establishment GOP replace true empathy with posturing that serves entrenched interests. The reality is that working class Americans have seen their wages stay flat for an entire lifetime. Large parts of Europe have massive unemployment, in the high double digits, especially among the young.

But leftists who should be looking out for the working class have abandoned them. Drunk with their own “multiculturalist” virtue, progressives welcome a massive influx of low-skill labor. This despite the many political, social and security problems that come along with them.

Illegal immigrants, in turn, work for employers who can fire them at will and easily replace them. Meanwhile, native-born workers of every race pay taxes to support costly social services. And our country’s borders are effectively controlled by narco- and human-traffickers, who rape and murder hundreds of migrants every year. We can stand with these victims, foreign and American, by insisting that the U.S. secure its borders.

VICTIMS OF RECKLESS U.S. FOREIGN POLICY

Jason and I were among the few conservatives who opposed the poorly planned invasion of Iraq in 2003. We foresaw that none of the exit plans on the table would protect religious minorities, or guarantee order in that country. Chaos reigned, and three-fourths of local Christians were ethnically cleansed from Iraq.

Obama collected a Nobel Peace Prize for taking a bad situation and making it almost infinitely worse.

Things got far worse when President Obama was elected. He chose to pull U.S. troops out of that country, with no regard for the fate of U.S. allies and vulnerable communities. The only people who gained from that decision were the extremists who formed ISIS. So Obama collected a Nobel Peace Prize for taking a bad situation and making it almost infinitely worse. Jason’s latest project is a film documenting Obama’s irresponsible decision, and the efforts of two Iraqi women (one an escapee from ISIS) to have that prize revoked.

We can stand with vulnerable people like these by scrutinizing every foreign policy decision by traditional Christian “Just War” principles, Jones said. These include carefully and realistically assessing the likely outcome of the war. Is it likely to succeed? Will it make matters worse? What will happen to the most vulnerable citizens of that country?

 

Here’s a short teaser for the film that Jones is making:

If America Betrays the Kurds, Where Will We Ever Find Allies?

Kurds flag - 390c9d1de2a80a844d0e01ba21c1192e_L.jpg

America’s flip-flop, and withdrawal of support for the aspirations of Kurds in Iraq, is a serious blunder. In fact, the American approach toward that tragic country has been both callous and foolish — in various ways, via many hands — since 2003, if not before.

Did it really never occur to Washington policy-makers that...

By smashing Iran’s most powerful rival, Iraq, they might hand the Islamic Republic dominance in the region?
Establishing a tolerant, centralized, pluralist American-style democracy in the ruins of the Ba’athist dictatorship might prove difficult?
We might fail?

Did we wonder whether by denouncing secular Arab dictatorships from Tunisia to Libya to Syria in a rare fit of idealism, America would only empower bitter, intolerant Islamists? How about the issue of millions of religious minorities? Did we ever give serious thought to their fate when we set about breaking nations?

Teenagers playing chess think more moves ahead than we did. And our folly marches on.