Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

Meanwhile, Christian fundamentalists:

Although a great many governors have made allowances for religious ceremonies to be performed in their coronavirus lockdown orders, many churches, too, have acknowledged in these extraordinary circumstances that their congregants should not be expected to attend public gatherings just for the sake of religious ceremony. Even Pope Francis has suggested Catholics who are at risk should ask God for forgiveness directly rather than go to Confession — a remarkable departure from centuries of Catholic Church doctrine.

But not all those of faith feel this way. In an angry article published in the right-wing Christian Journal First Things, editor R. R. Reno took a different position, suggesting that Christianity does not, in fact, command the faithful to take steps to save lives from COVID-19.

“At the press conference on Friday announcing the New York shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, ‘I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy,’” wrote Reno. “This statement reflects a disastrous sentimentalism. Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life. And yet we have been whipped into such a frenzy in New York that most family members will forgo visiting sick parents. Clergy won’t visit the sick or console those who mourn. The Eucharist itself is now subordinated to the false god of ‘saving lives.’”

“A number of my friends disagree with me,” wrote Reno. “They support the current measures, insisting that Christians must defend life. But the pro-life cause concerns the battle against killing, not an ill-conceived crusade against human finitude and the dolorous reality of death.”

Indeed, Reno even suggested that fearing the pandemic is a victory for Satan.

“There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost,” wrote Reno. “Satan rules a kingdom in which the ultimate power of death is announced morning, noon, and night. But Satan cannot rule directly. God alone has the power of life and death, and thus Satan can only rule indirectly. He must rely on our fear of death.”

“Fear of death and causing death is pervasive — stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age,” concluded Reno. “As long as we allow fear to reign, it will cause nearly all believers to fail to do as Christ commands in Matthew 25. It already is.”

Source: Christian journal claims government has forced the Church to worship ‘the false god of saving lives’

The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

Interesting and more nuanced take from an organization that tends towards anti-Muslim commentary:

A frank discussion needs to be had about the legitimate Islamic Right, namely religious Muslims who are politically and socially conservative but not Islamists. Too often, religious Muslims and Islamists get lumped together in the same category, but in reality, opposing Islamism is about opposing a political ideology, not just conservative views.

Extremism is about politics, not faith. The difference between an Islamist extremist and a regular Muslim religious person is whether they see their faith as a totalitarian political solution, not how religious they are.

Unless countering Islamism draws a firm line there, it will consistently exclude the reasonable Islamic right.

The Religious Islamic Right

Theological differences aside, religious people from the Abrahamic faiths share more social and political beliefs than they disagree with, namely, the values of social conservatives.

Social conservatives hold a set of views about how societies should be arranged. These views prioritize community over individualistic loneliness, conservation over consumerism, and tradition over novelty. Above all, they prioritize marriage and the home.

There is nothing unique to what is sometimes called the “Judeo-Christian” tradition about these views. They are just as prevalent in Islam among religious Muslims.

For example, according to a 2013 cross comparison of religious attitudes on abortion conducted by PEW, the Islamic position on abortion is on par with the theological views of Christianity and Judaism. Most Islamic theologians view it very negatively, although it is permissible up to four months.

Regarding dating, the views are also similar. Religious Muslim families in America have been known to use informal networks of aunts and grandmothers to secure dates that might lead to marriage for young men and women too pious to date casually.

This is very similar to the shidduch system of Orthodox Jews. It’s also something that a lot of Christian conservatives, many of whom frown on modern sexual norms, might find more appealing for their own children.

For these reasons, a lot of Muslims used to vote Right wing. A 2001 Zogby poll, quoted by The Atlantic in a piece titled “How the GOP Won and Then Lost the Muslim Vote,” indicated that 42% of American Muslims voted for Bush, as opposed to 32% for his opponent Al Gore.

If Right-wing people view expression of these sorts of views as extremist when displayed by Muslims, but as laudable when displayed by members of their own faith, that is holding Islam to a different standard.

Of course, we are not talking about the cases where such religious systems become oppressive and involve coercion, restricting personal freedoms or even violence, it is unacceptable. Culture is never an excuse for abuse. But where there is no abuse, these attitudes are simply conservative.

What About Sharia?

Islam is not like Christianity. Sharia is a total code for life which draws on the rich Islamic tradition of scholarship to guide daily conduct. Although there are many different opinions on what sharia is, most Muslims agree that it is very important.

However, the point that Islamic Right differs from the Islamists is that the Islamic Right does not agree that sharia should become the law of the land – either at this time or even in the future.

Granted, many Muslims who are deeply religious may feel in theory that a global caliphate which implements sharia would be the best system of government. There’s just the “small matter” of who would be the caliph, and how to ensure the judges and administrators are decent people devoted to truth and justice, and not power hungry lunatics.

In order for them to pledge allegiance to a particular caliph, they would have to see some pretty clear evidence that this guy was in fact acting with the authority of Allah.

Evidence such as the coming of the mahdi, an Islamic messianic figure, and direct intervention by supernatural forces would be such indications.

In the meantime, they are content to live normal lives, follow their interpretation of sharia privately and live within under a democracy and secular law.

In fact, such views do not differ from those of religious Christians and Jews who also look to a future where the world will be run according to the “kingdom of God.”

Other religious Muslims would go further still and argue that sharia should never be imposed as state law.

Politics Not Faith

It is difficult to gauge accurately how many Muslims hold these views. What can be determined is which ideologies are dangerous and abusive and which are not.

The point is that it is unreasonable to expect Islam, alone among world religions, to cut off and excise its religiously conservative component to appease anxious non-Muslims.

If social-conservatism is a vital and necessary part of the national political conversation (and it is), then Muslims have just as much right to express that through their faith as anyone else.

What is reasonable is to highlight where that conservatism goes too far. The line, as always, is where it starts aggressing on someone else’s rights.

Any political ideology which seeks to impose religious conservatism as state law is the problem. It’s one thing to prefer the hijab for personal and spiritual reasons for yourself. To try and force others to wear it is something completely different.

In the meantime, barring any coercive circumstances, the “Judeo-Christian” conservative Right should open their doors to the Islamic Right — Muslims who share the same values as they do — instead of pushing them into alliances with the Left.

Source: The Legitimate Islamic Right — A Frank Discussion

How to speak to far-right nationalists: Buruma

Buruma is always interesting to read and his general advice worth reflecting upon:

Something many right-wing populists have in common is a peculiar form of self-pity: the feeling of being victimized by the liberal media, academics, intellectuals, “experts” – in short, by the so-called elites. The liberal elites, the populists proclaim, rule the world and dominate ordinary patriotic people with an air of lofty disdain.

This is in many ways an old-fashioned view. Liberals, or leftists, do not dominate politics any more. And the influence that great left-of-centre newspapers, like The New York Times, once had has long been eclipsed by radio talk-show hosts, right-wing cable TV stations, tabloid newspapers (largely owned by Rupert Murdoch in the English-speaking world) and social media.

Influence, however, is not the same thing as prestige. The great newspapers, as with the great universities, still enjoy a higher status than the more popular press, and the same goes for higher learning. The Sun or Bild lack the esteem of the Financial Times or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and evangelical colleges in rural parts of the United States cannot compete in terms of cachet with Harvard or Yale.

Social status arouses more envy and resentment in our populist age than money or fame do. U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, is a very wealthy man, who was more famous than any of his rivals for the U.S. presidency, including Hillary Clinton. And yet he seems to be in an almost permanent rage against people who have greater intellectual or social prestige than he does. The fact that he shares this resentment with millions of people who are much less privileged goes a long way toward explaining his political success.

Until recently, figures on the extreme right had no prestige at all. Driven to the margins of most societies by collective memories of Nazi and fascist horrors, such men (there were hardly any women) had the grubby air of middle-aged patrons of backstreet porno cinemas. Stephen Bannon, still a highly influential figure in Mr. Trump’s world, seems a bit like that – a crank in a dirty raincoat.

But much has changed. Younger members of the far right, especially in Europe, are often sharply dressed in tailor-made suits, recalling the fascist dandies of pre-war France and Italy. They don’t shout at large mobs, but are slick performers in radio and TV studios, and are savvy users of social media. Some of them even have a sense of humour.

These new-model rightists are almost what Germans call salonfaehig, respectable enough to move in high circles. Overt racism is muted; their bigotry is disguised under a lot of smart patter. They crave prestige.

I had occasion to encounter a typical ideologue of this type recently at an academic conference organized by the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College in the United States. The conference was about populism, and the ideologue was Marc Jongen, a politician from the far-right Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party with a doctorate in philosophy. The son of a Dutch father and an Italian mother, born in Italy’s German-speaking South Tyrol, Mr. Jongen spoke near-perfect English.

Self-pity lay close to the surface. Mr. Jongen described Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to give shelter in Germany to large numbers of refugees from Middle Eastern wars as “an act of violence” toward the German people. He called immigrants and refugees criminals and rapists (even though crime rates among refugees in Germany are far lower than among “natives”). Islam was robbing the German Volk of its true identity. Men like Mr. Jongen were always being called Nazis. And so on.

I had been asked to furnish some counterarguments. I did not call Mr. Jongen a Nazi. But I did my best to point out why I thought his claims were both wrong and dangerous. We shook hands at the end. And that, as far as I was concerned, was that.

Then a minor academic storm broke out. More than 50 distinguished U.S. academics signed a letter protesting the Hannah Arendt Center’s decision to invite Mr. Jongen to speak. The point was not that he didn’t have the right to express his opinions, but that Bard College should not have lent its prestige to make the speaker look respectable. Inviting him to speak made his views seem legitimate.

This strikes me as wrong-headed for several reasons. First, if one is going to organize a conference on right-wing populism, it is surely useful to hear what a right-wing populist actually has to say. Listening to professors denouncing ideas without actually hearing what they are would not be instructive.

Nor is it obvious that a spokesman for a major opposition party in a democratic state should be considered out of bounds as a speaker on a college campus. Left-wing revolutionaries were once a staple of campus life, and efforts to ban them would rightly have been resisted.

The protest against inviting Mr. Jongen was not only intellectually incoherent; it was also tactically stupid, because it confirms the beliefs of the far right that liberals are the enemies of free speech and that right-wing populists are victims of liberal intolerance. I like to think that Mr. Jongen left the Bard conference politely discredited. Because of the protest, he was able to snatch victory from defeat.

via How to speak to far-right nationalists – The Globe and Mail

Anti-Islam group storms Anglican church in Australia – BBC News

More ugliness in Australia:

Right-wing protestors dressed in mock Muslim outfits and chanting anti-Islamic slogans have stormed a church service on Australia’s east coast.

The protestors interrupted a service held at Gosford Anglican Church on the Central Coast of New South Wales state.

A group of about 10 people entered the church and pretended to pray while playing Muslim prayers over a loudspeaker.

Local police are investigating what the church described as a “racist stunt”.

The Party for Freedom posted photos and video of the incident on social media, claiming it was a demonstration against the church’s support for Islamic leaders and multiculturalism.

The organisation has ties to Senator Pauline Hanson’s anti-immigration One Nation party, which has won four seats in Australia’s Senate.

“We want to share Islam with you, this is the future,” one of the protesters said in the footage.

“This is cultural diversity, mate. The rich tapestry of Islam that we’d like to share with Father Rod, and the congregation, and the social justice agenda we hear all the time.”

More than 24 hours after the altercation, One Nation released a statement saying that it did not have any official affiliation with the Party For Freedom.

‘Traumatised’

Father Rod Bower said the incident at his church terrorised the congregation.

“They were shocked,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“I worked out who it was fairly quickly. Some of the congregation was quite traumatised.”

The church is known for spreading pro-immigration messages on its billboard and in services.

The far-right nationalist group warned the congregation not to promote Islam.

“[The protest] was simply because we support the Muslim community, we try and build bridges,” Fr Bower said.

Source: Anti-Islam group storms Anglican church in Australia – BBC News

Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks

Predictable:

The terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Brussels that left 34 people dead are being exploited for political gain by many European politicians and parties, but especially so by right-wing, anti-immigration populists.

Belgium’s own right-wing party from Flanders, Vlaams Belang, has seen its popularity on social media soar since the attacks after its leader called for a “waterproof border policy,” according to Vocativ.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the France’s National Front, called on French authorities to carry out sweeping raids on minority neighborhoods and “empty the basements [of terrorists], the laxness has gone on for too long.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo from the Law and Justice party said her country could no longer take the 7,000 refugees it agreed to accept in negotiations with the European Union because of the deadly attacks, Reutersreported.

In the United Kingdom, the Independence Party, which is backing the British exit from the European Union known as Brexit, used the attacks to push their agenda.

American right-wingers chimed in, too.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump used the attacks to reiterate his stance on torture as an appropriate response as well as his plan to close U.S. borders while labeling Brussels “disaster city.”

Source: Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks

The angry, radical right: Martin Patriquin

Just as many pundits noted “Harper derangement syndrome” on the left, we now have “Trudeau (the younger) derangement syndrome” on the right following the election.

Ironic, given that the Conservative Party, now in opposition, has been running away from some of the policies and practices it implemented (e.g., cancellation of the Census, refusal to have an enquiry on murdered aboriginal women, the sale of LAVs to Saudi Arabia).

There will always be fringes on both sides of the political spectrum and the question is whether this will remain on the fringes or be picked up in some form by mainstream political parties (as arguably happened with the Conservatives’ use of identity politics with respect to Canadian Muslims during the election):

The RCMP, meanwhile, has seen an uptick in threats against Trudeau, according to police sources. “It’s somewhat expected, because Trudeau is anathema to right-wing extremists, and right-wing extremists tend to be the most explicit and reckless of those who make these kinds of threats,” says a former member of the RCMP’s threat-assessment group, a national security unit that safeguards domestic and visiting political leaders, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he remains a member of the RCMP.

Much of the rhetoric comes from a range of online groups whose ideologies vary as much as their popularity. Pegida Canada and Canadian Defence League, for example, are offshoots of European anti-Islamic groups. Others, including Separation of Alberta from the Liberal East, have specific Canadian political goals. Others still are Zionist in nature, including the Jewish Defence League and Christians United For Israel. With its 25,000 followers, Never Again Canada looms large.

The Never Again Canada Facebook page first appeared in mid-2014. The group, such as it is, bills itself as an “organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, propaganda, terror and Jew hatred in Canada . . . Hatred is like cancer, the more you don’t treat it and ignore it, the worse it gets.” Its page, often updated several times an hour, is almost uniquely dedicated to criticism of Justin Trudeau—sometimes referred to as “Justine”—and Islam. (“Never Again” is an apparent reference to the slogan of the Jewish Defence League, the U.S.-based militant Zionist organization, which has a chapter in Canada.)

The commentators on Never Again are a hodgepodge of Zionists, former and current military, Christian militants, the occasional white nationalist—an irony, given that the white nationalist movement isn’t typically very charitable toward Jews—and many anti-Muslim types like Witko and Larry Langenauer. A 67-year-old small business owner, Langenauer says he began posting on Never Again’s Facebook page four months ago.

On Dec. 10 Langenauer wrote that “the most convincing non-confidence statement” against Trudeau would be to shoot him. He has made similar threats about the Saudi-born Liberal MP Omar Alghabra, who was recently appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs. (In Canada, uttering threats is an offence punishable by up to five years in jail. Committing hate speech is punishable by up to two years in jail.)

“I guess anyone that feels that way is probably thinking that [Trudeau] is the man who almost single-handedly, with the people in office with him, has enabled violent immigrants,” Langenauer said in a recent telephone interview from his Montreal home. “It’s their responsibility. Why would Canada be exempt from this type of behaviour by the radical Islamic immigrants? They say they’re refugees, they’re not really refugees. People are going to resent it, and eventually they will act upon it toward the people whom they feel are responsible.”

Source: The angry, radical right – Macleans.ca

European far-Right parties ‘seeking anti-Islam coalition with Jewish groups’

Not surprising but encouraging that most European Jewish groups have rejected the overture:

Right-wing European political parties are seeking to sow religious discord in Europe by approaching Jewish organisations in a bid to form an anti-Islamic alliance.

Speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, a senior figure in one of Europe’s largest Jewish organisations has revealed that their group has been approached in the past year by MEPs, including members of the Austrian Freedom Party, seeking to create a coalition to combat the rise of Islam in Europe. They emphasized that all approaches had been flatly refused.

Last week, Marine Le Pen and other far-Right politicians met with Vadim Rabinovich, the chairman of the European Jewish Parliament (EJP), prompting criticism from European Jewish leaders.

Now the source says that far-Right’s rapprochement with Jewish groups is far from new as politicians from various parties have attempted to court their group, offering to “be friends with Jews” if Jewish groups “help us in our fight against Muslims”.

… The meeting drew criticism from prominent Jewish leaders and led to one member of the EJP, French rabbi Levi Matusof, resigning after the meeting which he called “opportunistic and inappropriate”.

The European Jewish Association, which claims to be the biggest federation of Jewish organisations in Europe, said that the EJP risked “magnifying the problem” of anti-Semitism by “giving a platform to those seeking to spread messages of hate”.

Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said he was shocked that the EJP met with “fig leaf racists and anti-Semites” and added: “It goes without saying that these people [the EJP] are as unrepresentative of the vast majority of European Jews as this collective of Le Pen’s MEPs is of the vast majority of European citizens.”

In a statement on the EJP’s website, Rabinovich said he was “very surprised” by the negative reaction from other Jewish groups.

“The meeting with the [Europe of Nations and Freedom] opens the new dialogue, which, in our firm conviction is what Europe needs today – a dialogue of everybody with everyone, in order to preserve peace and tolerance and combat anti-Semitism in Europe,” said Rabinovich.

He added that a joint statement with Le Pen had condemned anti-Semitism as “the cancer of Europe”.

European far-Right parties ‘seeking anti-Islam coalition with Jewish groups’.