Is Sarah Palin Wrong About Jack Kennedy?

Kennedy’s niece certainly thinks so:

Palin fails to understand the genius of our nation. The United States is one of the most vibrant religious countries on Earth precisely because of its religious freedom. When power and faith are entwined, faith loses. Power tends to obfuscate, corrupt and focus on temporal rather than eternal purposes.

Somehow Palin misses this. Perhaps she didn’t read the full Houston speech; she certainly doesn’t know it by heart. Or she may be appealing to a religious right that really seeks secular power. I don’t know.

I am certain, however, that no American political leader should cavalierly – or out of political calculation – dismiss the hard-won ideal of religious freedom that is among our country’s greatest gifts to the world. As John F. Kennedy said in Houston, that is the “kind of America I believe in.”

I think the core of the problem here is that the United States facing Sarah Palin–and us–is different from Jack Kennedy’s.  He faced a very different challenge from Palin’s, and his response was tailored to the situation.

Kennedy’s U.S. wasn’t a state with an official religion or an official church, but one where the social value of religious beliefs were valued.  Those two had gone together from the beginning.  Palin has overlooked the fact that, in Kennedy’s day, it was unnecessary for an American politician to make the case for holding religious beliefs, publicly or privately.   Kennedy’s problem was that, in a Protestant country, it was a widely accepted idea that Catholic authoritarianism would obligate Kennedy to take orders from the Vatican, something Protestants found distasteful in the extreme.  (Freemasons, syncretistic though they were, had the same opinion).  Kennedy’s task–aptly done in Houston–was to set people’s minds at ease on that, and he was largely successful.

One thing that most Protestants don’t understand about Roman Catholics is that, for a church that ostensibly demands perfect conformity with the teaching of the church, they can be willing to ignore the teachings of the church when the occasion calls for it.  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend brings up her family’s differences with the church, but relative to the 1960 election most of those were after the fact–and after, I might add, Vatican II.

Today both secular left and religious right routinely set forth the proposition that you are what you believe and that you should be judged based on that.  Secular leftists routinely opine that people with any religious beliefs are incapable (or unworthy) of living in a technologically and scientifically advanced society, let alone hold public office, a proposition that came out in my “back and forth” with astrophysicist Saul Adelman.  On the right we have a theonomistic view where law and government–and the people who run them–must be in conformity to a very specific idea, or they too are out of the game.

It’s hard to see how a “free society” can endure such opinions having wide currency, and in that respect Townsend’s critique has merit.  But Sarah Palin, as was the case with Jack Kennedy, has to play with the cards she’s been dealt.  Until the secular left and religious right come to some modus vivendi in this country, the only way to play this game is for keeps.

How You Look at Christmas Depends Upon Where You Come From

In the middle of an excellent piece on the city of Philadelphia’s horror at a “Christmas Village,” Christine Flowers takes an informal poll and finds the following:

As an immigration attorney, I deal with a lot of non-Christians, and I wanted to see if the ones I knew were upset at the Christmas display. They were not. “Mohammed” from Pakistan was particularly happy that, unlike the holiday displays in his hometown, it was not in danger of being bombed by the Taliban. “Ziva” from Israel said she liked the idea that all this fuss was being made about a little Jewish boy. “Chiang” from China was thrilled that he could say the word “Christmas” in public and not be sent to a re-education camp. So when I told him the City of Brotherly Love was stripping the word from a public display, he shook his head in disgust.

People who come from countries that know what true religious intolerance is can’t understand the pettiness of the bureaucrats. Neither can I. Apparently, we have to accept that the word “Christmas” conjures up the same sort of nefarious images as swastikas, so we need to protect the quaking Quaker-flavored populace from the yearly plunge into the horror of the season.

The real problem we have in this country and in Europe is that the secularists want to banish Christianity altogether, so they go after things like the Christmas Village in the name of “tolerance”.

Fortunately the City of Brotherly Love reversed itself after the stink made the Drudge Report.  Daniel Rubin couldn’t resist having a little fun with the original announcement:

I stood in a media scrum Tuesday – news of the name change had made the Drudge Report – as city Managing Director Richard Negrin explained how he’d received complaints from city workers and residents about the market, how unwelcoming it was to those who don’t do Christmas.

He told of how a little girl and her father had been walking by the market the other day, and the girl, who was Jewish, had asked, “Don’t we get a village?”

Yes, dear, I thought. We call it New York…

My feeling is have your Christmas market, and I’ll have my Hanukkah menorah. I’ll roast chestnuts with you by the fire, and you drop by my house when we wolf down some latkes and applesauce. Or sour cream. Just call ahead.

There’s an easier way for hospitality, though.  One of the great regrets I have from my years in my family business is that I didn’t head to a 20,000 sq. ft. Jewish delicatessen in Delray Beach with one of our Jewish business partners.  Sad to say, both of us had already spent too much time in the chow line, so we never did it.

Apple Gives Manhattan Declaration App the Boot

The Church Mouse blog (I think this name is hilarious, considering this) reports the following:

Since then, the folk behind the (Manhattan D)eclaration thought it would be a good idea to create an iPhone app which allows users to read and sign the declaration, and share it with others.  The app was duly created and released in the iTunes App Store, with a rating of 4+, meaning “no offensive content”.

This drew criticism from many campaigners who believe that the declaration is “anti-gay”, in that it denies gay marriage is legitimate and describes gay sex as “immoral”and “wayward”.  This drew the attention of a number of leading tech and other publications in the US, and a campaign of writing to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and a petition emerged.

The latest news is that the app has disappeared from iTunes.  The Manhattan Declaration people say on their website that they are “perplexed”.  However, it is known that Apple has previously supported gay equality charities, so it shouldn’t be a surprise.

No, it shouldn’t, sad to say.  I think that Apple is simply wrong to do this, and hope they reverse their decision.  But as regular readers know my position on the Declaration itself is complicated:

  • I don’t like the Manhattan Declaration and don’t support it.  One reason is that the Declaration, like so many conservative Christian statements on the subject, conflates civil with ecclesiastical marriage, which I think is a mistake.  I think that civil marriage needs to be abolished and the Declaration is yet another missed opportunity to seize the initiative on this.
  • Marriage as a divine union of one man and woman is certainly foundational; the Church Mouse blogger is not correct on this.  It’s not an accident that Jesus, in defining Christian marriage, went back to the Creation for his position.  And that’s foundational.

But, as long as causes well represented in the upper socio-economic strata have pull, these things will happen.

A Lesson from Lenin: The Last Time Secrecy Was Denounced, We Only Ended Up With More

With all of the trumpeting of the benefits of the Wikileaks revelations and how wonderful it is to get them out in the open, it’s a good idea to take a trip down memory lane and look a previous time when secrecy was at least denounced, if not exposed.

That time, of course, was before the Russian Revolution, and the denouncer was V.I. Lenin.  Here’s an example of that, from May 1917:

We all know that the “revolutionary” Provisional Government’s first word on foreign policy was the declaration that all secret treaties concluded by ex-Tsar Nicholas II with the “Allied” capitalists remained in force, and that the new Russia would regard them as sacred and inviolable.

We know, furthermore, that our “defencists” vehemently support the Milyukovs’ refusal to publish the secret treaties. These so-called socialist have sunk so low as to defend secret diplomacy, and the secret diplomacy of the ex-tsar at that.

Why do the supporters of the imperialist war guard the secret of these treaties so zealously?

Do you want to know why, comrade workers and soldiers?

Familiarise yourselves with at least one of these noble treaties–“our” treaty with Italy (i.e., with the Italian capitalists) signed at the beginning of 1915.

On the basis of material published in Novoye Vremya, Mr. V. Vodovozov, a bourgeois democrat, reveals in Dyen (for May 6, 1917) the contents of that treaty:

“The Allies have guaranteed Italy Southern Tyrol with Trient, the entire coastline, and the northern part of Dalmatia with the towns of Zara and Spalato, the central part of Albania with Valona, the Aegean islands off the coast of Asia Minor, as well as a profitable railway concession in Asiatic Turkey–such is the price for which Italy has traded her blood. These annexations exceed any national claims ever advanced by Italy many times over. In addition to regions with an Italian population (Southern Tyrol and Trieste) of nearly 600,000, Italy, under this treaty, is to receive territories with a population of over a million who are absolutely alien to Italy eghnographically and in point of religion. These include, for instance, Dalmatia, 97 per cent of whose population are Serbs and only slightly over 2 per cent Italians. It is only natural that this treaty with Italy, concluded without the knowledge or consent of Serbia, should have provoked such bitterness and resentment in that country. Pašic, speaking in the Skupshtina, expressed the hope that the rumours concerning the treaty were false, since Italy herself had united in the name of the principle of national unity, and could not therefore do anything that was likely to strike at the very roots of that principle. But Pašic was wrong; the treaty was concluded.

“This is the only treaty concerning the present war whose contents we know of, and this treaty is grossly predatory. Whether similar predatory instincts are or are not reflected in other treaties, we do not know. At any rate, it is extremely important that democracy, on whose banner is inscribed ‘peace without annexations’, should know this.”

“We do not know” to what extent the other secret treaties are predatory? No, Mr. Vodovozov, we know it very well: the secret treaties concerning the carve-up of Persia and Turkey, the seizure of Galicia and Armenia are just as dirty and predatory as the rapacious treaty with Italy.

Comrade soldiers and workers! You are told that you are defending “freedom” and the “revolution”! In reality you are defending the shady treaties of the tsar, which are concealed from you as one conceals a secret disease.

Lenin was famous for his denunciations of secret diplomacy.  But the end result, in reality, was one of the most secretive nations on the planet, the USSR.  One thing for sure, though: with nationalised health care (another thing the USSR pioneered) there won’t be too many secret diseases any more.

Unintended consequences are such nuisances!