The Foundation Stones [Long Post]

Anyone who knows me, virtually or in-person, knows that I have little use…and little regard for Religion. Not Faith….and the freedom to practice it….but Religion.
But I understand it’s impact [positive AND negative] on culture and society, and every once in a while, usually when and where I least expect it, I come across somebody’s perspective on the larger question of what Faith means to a culture…..and I’m blown away.
I’m currently without the distraction of cable news and political drama [except for fleeting glimpses] and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s allowed me to reconfirm what’s important in life…and political theater ain’t it. I’ve been able to catch up on some quality reading and am currently winding down on The Lion’s Gate, by Steven Pressfield; in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of my time.
In The Lion’s Gate, Pressfield takes the reader through the unfolding events leading up to, during and just after the Arab-Israeli “Six-Day War”. The entire book is phenomenal, the story being told through the post-war interviews with no small number of the veterans themselves. However, one passage struck me as poignant and thought-provoking, over all the rest:
The Jewish religion is not a faith that prizes blind obedience or collective adherence to dogma. Our tradition is cerebral. We debate. We argue. The question is always holier than the answer.
The primal Jewish issue is justice. Judaism is a religion of the law, and the seminal concept of the law is that the minority must be protected. In the Jewish faith, you study. You wrestle with issues. You are a scholar. You deliberate, you dispute. A Jew asks over and over, “What is fair? What is just? Who is a good man, and why?”
I spent only one winter in the yeshiva. What I learned, more than Torah, was to love the teachers, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and “the saintly Nazir,” Rabbi David Cohen, who embodied these pursuits with such honor and integrity. I learned not so much from them as through them, by watching their actions, hearing their speech, and observing the way they conducted themselves. I learned the history of the Jewish people, the incredible suffering endured by millions over so many centuries, and of Jerusalem, the centrality of this place in the soul of the people, their neshama, and why our return to this site means so much.
The Kotel. The Western Wall, as it is called in English. How did so much hope and passion come to be attached to a wall? Not even the wall of a temple, which the Kotel is not, but even humbler, a retaining wall for the mount upon which the razed temple had once stood. A ruin. How could this mean so much to me? How could it mean so much to our paratroopers who had never studied, who knew nothing of Torah, who did not even know how to pray?
A wall is unlike any other holy site. A wall is a foundation. It is what remains when all that had once risen above it has been swept away. A wall evokes primal emotion, particularly when it is built into the land, when the far side is not open space but the fundament of the earth itself. When one stands with worshipful purpose before the expanse of a wall, particularly one that dwarfs his person, that rises above him and extends on both sides, an emotion arises from the heart that is unlike the feeling evoked by any other religious experience. How different, compared to, say, worshipping in a cathedral or within a great hall or at the foot of some monumental tower.
One approaches the Western Wall as an individual. No rabbi stands beside you. Set your palms against the stones. Is God present? Will the stone conduct your prayers to Him? Around you stand others of your faith; you feel their presence and the intention of their coming, but you remain yourself alone.
Are you bereft? Is your spirit impoverished? Set your brow against the stone. Feel its surface with your fingertips. Myself, I cannot come within thirty paces of the Wall without tears.
The ancient Greeks considered Delphi the epicenter of the world. This is the Wall to me. All superfluity has been stripped from this site and from ourselves. Here the enemies of my people have devastated all that they could. What remains? This fundament alone, which they failed to raze only because it was beneath their notice. The armored legions of our enemies have passed on, leaving only this wall. In the twenty centuries since, those who hate us have defiled it and piled trash before it and even relieved themselves against it. They have neglected it, permitted slums to be built up around it. This only makes it more precious to us.
That morning of June 7, I can’t remember exactly when this happened—maybe on the way down to the Wall with Moshe Stempel and the others. At some point we were climbing the stairs—Yair Levanon, Dov Gruner, Moshe Milo, and I—when we noticed a scrawl, freshly scratched into the stone, in Hebrew:
This is a verse from Psalm 137, which also contains the line “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.”
While we grow fat and lazy under a relentless parade of self-indulgent, vulgar, Statist politicians….while we surrender our most basic liberties to the guise of security….we have aging contemporaries who know what it means to fight for their very survival. And they bore the cost stoically.

Is Trump ultimately harming Christianity?

Conservative Christian Rod Dreher [who’s written extensively about the “Benedict Option”] opines in the NYT:

Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.

This is not only wrong, but tragically so. The most pressing problem Christianity faces is not in politics. It’s in parishes. It’s with the pastors. Most of all, it’s among an increasingly faithless people.

The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States. As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that. In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate.

Is Dreher correct? Though Trump garnered Evangelical support, does his Administration bode well for Christian dominion [no pun intended] over the religious landscape of America?



Takfiri for Dummies

Since invoking Islam for one’s political agenda is all the rage these days, it’s helpful to those who at least aren’t fellating sycophants……to have a basic understanding of of Islam….just as a good Christian wouldn’t want to be lumped in by Leftists as part and parcel to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Information Mullet: There are those who want to (rightfully) avoid the fallacy of generalizations (1) in describing the attackers I recommend using the term “Salafist Takfiri” to *specifically* describe militant members of groups such as AQ, ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram etc. who share a common set of behaviors and beliefs. These behaviors and beliefs are *not* the same as Muslims or even Islamists and understanding the difference is key to working together with our allies in this fight and isolating those who are our enemies.

In 2006 the West Point Center for Combating Terrorism released it’s Atlas of Militant Ideology with a very handy segmentation (2) that I roughly reproduce below. 

Those who believe in Islam are Muslims.

Muslims who believe that Islam should be the basis of the state are Islamists.
Suuni Islamists who believe the Islamic state should be built off of 14th Century principles or the restoration of the Caliphate are Salafists.
Salafists who are willing to break the law of the Koran by declaring another Muslim apostate and kill them are Takfiri.(3)

Takfiri are largely our problem.
Not Salifists.
Not Islamists.
And certainly not Muslims.

AQ, AQIP, AQIM, Al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, Boko Haram, ISIS, Jemiah al Islamiah, JWT, the Mujhadeen Shura Council….all Salifist-Takfiri, largely influenced by the same Whabbist split of the Salafist creed. (Parphrased elsewhere all Whabbists are Salafists, but not all Salafists are Whabbist.)

There are Shia bad actors as well.
The Shia version of Islamist is a Khomeinist (those who believe Islamic clergy & jurists should run the state on Islamic principles).
The Shia don’t really have a version of Salafist/Whabbiest – but their version of Takfiri are groups like Hezbollah, the Al-Sadr Brigades and Shia death squads in Iraq.

I don’t expect everyone to know this. The “mafia” that kills Muslims for drawing pictures, those are the Salafist Takfiris. They are *not* Muslims in the broader sense.

And as for “Muslims speaking out” against Salfist-Takfiri militancy I’ve got a list as long as my arm I can point you too. Each entry itself a major rebuttal or condemnation of Salifi-Takfirism signed by hundreds of prominent Muslim officials and scholars including the Aman Message in 2004.(4)

And to every commentator who gets on a TV show or a radio or a news site and claims that because they have “read the Koran” and suddenly thinks they are an expert on militants or fundamentalists or even Muslims.The book is meaningless in this conversation.

Salifist-Takfiri are prolific writers and readers, and they don’t cite the Koran, they cite *scholars* of the Koran. Not unlike politicans today are likely to cite founding father and courts are likely to cite court cases.

Indeed trying to understand what’s going on in modern Islamic militant fundamentalism by only reading the Koran book is like trying to understand the history of US politics in the 20th Century by only reading the magna carta.

When creating their militant atlas of ideology, West Point Center for Combating did a citation analysis, looking at over 100 texts of Islamic scholars and then seeing which scholars the ideologues cited and grouping them that way. It would be like identifying American political figures by looking at who cites Jefferson, Madison or Adams most. (And yes, just between those three Founding you can tell a lot about the person citing them if they favor one over the other two as they represent three persistent factions/trends in American political theory.)

Back to the subject at hand – the Whabbist faction of Salafism is indeed named for the scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (18th century) and Salafism itself is named for the Islamic scholar & cleric Ibn Taymiyyah (14th Century).

If folks wish to inform themselves better on this subject I urge to read the executive summary (26 pages) of the Atlas. Its a quick read and not too dense, and a far better source than Bill Maher or commentators who have zero expertise in the subject. If you want to go “deep”, the attached Research Compendium, clocking in at over 300 pages, provides a great guide to the scholars, and the nuances of the ideology that form these splits.…/2012/04/Atlas-ExecutiveReport.pdf

(1) Every *legitimate* problem solving method in the world seeks to reduce the scope of the problem by separating wheat from chaff, signal from noise. Almost every form of analysis is an attempt to isolate further, what is the root cause activity that is driving the negative behavior. Because once you find that smallest part…you can focus on it, put all your attention into that part and not defuse any effort by spreading it thin on the uninvolved.

It’s a form of logic – given group A and group B, and group B is the root cause of behavior C – no matter how much effort you spend working to modify group A, you will not change group B and therefore not improve behavior C.

Everything bad you could say about Salafist-Takfiri I would accept and add a few more.

This very small subset of all Muslims is punching far above its weight and are a true manifestation of evil on this planet. So why waste our time and resources on the other 1.49B Muslims who *aren’t* Salafist Takfiri? This is not about political correctness, this is about utility in target selection.

(2) I call this fractal segmentation and it’s based off of statistical self similarity of fractional units, or more easily called “the coastline of britain problem”. Stated simply as you increase the fidelity of your measure, and are able to read in ever smaller units of measurement, the figure you are studying literally changes in its shape,dimensions and measurement. The thought experiment which demonstrates this is if you imagine measuring the Coastline of Britain with a 200km stick, it will be one shape and have a distance of 2400km. But if you measure the Coastline of Britain with a 50km stick, it will have a very different shape, and a coastline distance of 3400km.

When someone says “Muslims are the problem” their ‘stick’ is 1.4B people large. The Salafist Takfiri measurement ‘stick’ is maybe a few million. The shape and nature of the problem generalists describe is very different than the actual shape and nature of the actual problem. The generalists rough blob of a measure is like looking at a 10,000 piece puzzle after you’ve spent the night in a mexican bar drinking the worm – it’s fuzzy, hard to describe and not easy to work on. The Salafist Takfiri measurement is like picking up a single piece of the puzzle, with clarity, and saying “this…this is what we need to focus on.”

The majority is posted here, but for the full article, visit Rogue Dynamics. H/T to I aim to misbehave.

At least Trump is honest about his use of the victim card…

Well, Tony, I can, tell you this, that religious liberty is very important to me, and I see more and more, especially, in particular, Christianity, Christians, their power is being taken away. I just watch it and I get angry at it. You look at what is going on with other religions, you look at, as an example, what’s happening with respect to Muslims and others where perhaps they just band together better or something. But, you know, the Christian, every year, you just see it more and more.


He then goes on ad nauseum with the usual tripe about being “forbidden” from saying certain things…or lamenting about how government institutions don’t act as surrogate churches….and about how he’ll apparently force un-Constitutional mandates on the populace…..since that’s his campaign platform: Trump, I’ll be great!

I weep for our Republic.

The alleged “War on Christmas” now comes with caffeine

The time of season is upon us, where some people get offended if they don’t hear Merry Christmas from a retail establishment only intent on taking your money. The latest front opens on the heathen Starbucks coffee chain. Even Kimberly Ross of Red State isn’t having any of it.

The holidays are approaching, so get your cultural outrage meter ready. If you’re watching the calendar, Thanksgiving is two weeks from this coming Thursday, and the Christmas season will soon be in full swing. At many stores, the holiday season begins with Black Friday shopping, that zoo-like day-after-Thanksgiving (or sometimes night-of-Thanksgiving) event which highlights our obsession with stuff. Right now, businesses already show signs of the season, with holiday-themed decoration and sales.

And then there’s the controversy over coffee. Well, not really coffee, but the cups the coffee comes in. And not really a cup from any store, but a cup from the coffee store. Starbucks. I’ve noticed that people have strong reactions to vendors like Starbucks (or Walmart) in a way they don’t with others. The issue this season with Starbucks? You will receive your coffee in a plain red cup. That’s it. There won’t be patterned snowy things, trees, ornaments, reindeer, Santas, sledding, or anything else you’ve seen in past years. Your overpriced cappu-latte-macha-ccino, with extra foam, will have to be drunk out of a solid color cup. Oh, the horror.

No, really. Some people are having a fit with this, and I am amazed. It really is making a mountain out of a molehill, and many are livid over it.

Starbucks rolled out plain red cups, the sort of minimalist theme that many faux-trendy places are prone to.

But because it doesn’t have snowflakes, Frosty or candy canes…..some folks have lost their minds. Think about that for a moment; some people are actually offended that a coffee chain didn’t affirm and reinforce their personal beliefs [or aesthetics] on a disposable coffee cup.

Just when I think my fellow man can’t shock or disappoint me with their selfishness and cultural tantrums

The Constitution and Religion

This is already getting beat to death in the media, but I have an addendum question. On Sunday, Dr Ben Carson was asked about a Presidents [or candidates] religious faith.

He responded with “I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter…….I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”…..explaining moments later, that Islam was “not consistent with the Constitution”.

Of course, we needn’t remind the intelligent Doctor that Article VI requires public officials to be “bound by oath, or affirmation, to support this Constitution.” and “But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

And Dr. Carson is possibly aware [whether he agrees with the premise or not] that many leading lights of the Christian Right believe the Constitution to be “divinely inspired” or at least traced directly back to the Bible.

My addendum question to this issue is this…..if Islam is “not compatible”, how exactly is Judaism or Christianity? We certainly have to look no further than the Constitutional provisions that protect equality of civil liberty, opportunity and government services….to all citizens…..not merely those who profess faith or align with a Biblical worldview. Further, for those it applies to, how does predestination, millennialism, dispensationalism or the general belief in a welcoming acceptance of the “end times” square with leading a nation of many faiths and none….toward a [hopefully] brighter future for our children?

Though I’m not an Atheist, I think I would welcome an Atheist candidate [provided that he/she protected religious liberty, in accordance with the Constitution]….in order to avoid the drama and distraction…and simply put mind to the task at hand, leading the nation…of all American citizens.

Wishful thinking? Yep.

Marriage Martyrdom *Updated*

Despite having been subjected to a relentless onslaught of dire prognostications, of gays surrounding churches with pitchforks and torches [metaphorically speaking]….it’s of little surprise to many of us that the first tantrum over the Obergefell ruling, comes from a Christian.

Not just any Christian, but one who had sworn a oath to serve the people [ALL of the people] of Rowan County, Kentucky. Not content to discharge her duties, which had previously included issuing marriage licenses to cohabitators, fornicators and other assorted sinners……Mrs Davis decided that the civil liberty of marriage to one of the same gender would be where she drew the line…and embarked on her quest for martyrdom.

And martyrdom is exactly what she seeks. She could have directed deputy clerks to issue licenses to gay Kentuckians, or found any number of methods to avoid the physical act of signing/stamping her name on these papers [as has been done in states where gay marriage has been legal before this summer].

No….in a stunning display of hypocrisy and bureaucratic tyranny, she simply refused to do her job. She threw a tantrum out of anger that her sect has lost the special privileges and governmental preferences they have so long enjoyed. She hypocritically employs a defense of adhering only to “God’s law”, [as a civil servant in a secular government….] yet appeals her case [denied at every level] to the apparatus of that same secular government. So either she’s not terribly bright….or she had meticulously planned this charade to breathe fire into the masses who cling to a notion of faux-victimization [after a long history of institutional persecution and prosecution of their fellow Americans, based on their unprovable belief system].

I don’t however, believe that she should have been jailed….but simply fined for as long as she continued to refuse to discharge the duties of her office. Given her inevitable circuit on Fox News and the radio talk shows, and feting by Christian activist groups, I think that she’ll do OK in the long run. Unfortunately, true religious liberty takes yet another hit, by being tarnished by association with the grievance industry.

Now, Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee [who’s poll numbers might lead you to think that he’s not actually running] is heading to Kentucky…because apparently “Christianity has been criminalized”. That ought to lead to a pretty busy day for law enforcement come Sunday morning. Seriously, with ignorant assclowns like this in the GOP….can it be any wonder why Obama won two terms as POTUS?

Meme’s of the so-called "Culture Wars"

The National Organization for Straight Marriage has released an ever-so-helpful guide to using politically correct talking points. But the cognitive dissonance is strong in this one…..


Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is the following:

“Gays and lesbians have a right to live as they choose;

they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. 

So let’s take a closer look; Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose….unless they wish to partake in the same social customs and privileges as every other citizen. If they cross that line, the loving members of organizations such as NOM, will attempt to use the force of law to keep them second class citizens, while folks like NOM get to retain the special rights that they so dearly love.

NOM claims that nobody has the right to “redefine” marriage…..yet NOM would deign to “define” marriage on the first place. Let us not forget that marriage has undergone many redefinitions, as women have slowly attained equal rights as full citizens over time; women are no longer chattel to be used as bargaining or brokering by wealthy males and families; and we do not allow the polygamy that we read about in the Bible.

Finally, a marriage means something special, yet with different qualities to each person and couple. If allowing gays to partake in the same civil contract [because marriage is a civil contract under our system of laws], causes such extreme anguish with folks such as NOM….then perhaps that says something about their marriage……

This week in the ongoing oppression of Christians

Yes, that was sarcasm. Todd Starnes, where are you?

Cochran City Manager Richard Newbern said the city council voted to wave the Christian Flag over city hall. 

Councilman Gary Ates said he made the motion for the flag to stay up. He said the council voted to keep it up 5 to 1. “The city manager took the flag down because an attorney said we could have a problem,” said Ates. 

Ates said, “The people of Cochran came to a city council meeting and said ‘let’s put the flag back up’,” said Ates. 

Ates said about 75 to 100 people requested it to be put up again. 

“It was the right thing to do,” said Ates. 

We reached out to other Cochran city officials; none of them could be reached for comment.


This flag has no more place above a government building than a rainbow flag or a Confederate battle flag. But it will be defending by those seeking victim status or claiming that we’re a “Christian nation”.

It takes two groups of fools to fight a ‘culture war’.

Something stinks in Indiana

Last week, the Indiana State Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. The verbiage of the bill is sufficiently vague [by design] to seem benign on it’s face….but the public statements by supporters of this bill, leading up to it’s passing, make it quite clear what it’s about [some Indiana establishments are already declaring that they will no longer serve gays]. A special privilege for religion….but with an ironic twist probably not thought of by the proponents – only those religions sanctioned by the Government. If I followed a religious belief not shared with the dominant faiths of this nation, my standing in a court of law under this bill, would likely be nil.

That’s something I fail to understand, regarding the pursuit of a victimhood status by the dominant and pervasive religious faith of this society. Many of the faithful rail against alleged government intrusion in their religious practices while accepting both special privileges and incentives from said government – and ignorant of the precedent set when laws like this pass. They seemingly fail to realize that every time a law is passed creating a special right or allowing them to discriminate as please, they set a legal precedence that can be used against them. The chicken little charades over Shari’a law taking hold in this nation, are made more likely with the passing of each one of these laws.

In the end however, it is not religious freedom they seek, they already have that. Are there instances where this is infringed upon? Absolutely, and those cases should be adjudicated appropriately, taking religious liberty into account, without carving out a special right not available to other citizens…based merely on what a citizen believes.

Back to the Indiana law. I wrote above that the bill was written to a level of vagueness [by design I believe], such that Gov. Pence is forced to “clarify the intent” of the measure. I’m thinking that a “Clarification Bill” is an easier process now that the law has been passed, than were the “clarity” to be written into the law in the first place. By design. Special privileges.

Personally, as I have stated previously, I support the right of private business owners to refuse goods or services to whomever they wish. That someone believes in a deity, and I am fairly agnostic, doesn’t equal their belief to be any more valid than my own, in the eyes of the law. THAT is religious freedom.

But let the majority continue to pursue their crusade of victimhood, along with their well heeled industry of faux outrage and contrived injury. It will be their undoing, because they’re not playing the long game; they’re not pursuing a coherent and just strategy; and they are ensuring that they will not remain the dominant religious faith [among the landscape of faithful and not] in perpetuity [as declining numbers already indicate].