The Apocalypse in U.S. Political Thought

Copyright © 2016 by the Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please fill out and submit a Permissions Request Form. If you plan to use this article in a coursepack or academic website, visit Copyright Clearance Center to clear permission.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Turkey-U.S. and Fethullah Gulen – Explanation

Foreign Policy – July 18, 2016- David Kenner – The Public Trial of Fethullah Gulen

The dueling descriptions of Fethullah Gulen often seem to describe two completely different men. To his supporters, the Pennsylvania-based imam is a progressive, tolerant Islamic thinker, who presides over a grassroots organization known as Hizmet (“Service”) that prioritizes education and works to counter radicalization in the Muslim world. To his enemies, he is a shadowy cult leader whose followers are deeply embedded in the Turkish police, judiciary, and military and the head of a terrorist organization bent on toppling the government in Ankara.

Those enemies include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who accused Gulen of masterminding the recent failed coup against his rule. Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials have said they will demand Gulen’s extradition and that U.S. failure to do so would call the close U.S.-Turkish relationship into question. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday that any country that stood by Gulen “is no friend of Turkey [and] is engaged in a serious war with Turkey.”

Whether U.S. officials move against Gulen depends on which description of the cleric they ultimately endorse. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the United States has not yet Continue reading

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Clean hands – bad behavior

Moral narcissism is about being more concerned with the cleanliness of your hands than with how your conduct shapes the lives around you. Your sensitivity is commendable but perilous. Life is messy, and the best outcome often has something deplorable about it.

—  Kwame Anthony Appiah, abridged, The New York Times 11/11/15

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Father of the Internet Worries Our Digital History is Disappearing


Vint Cerf worries the digital history of our age is writ on water. Cerf built the internet from its roots with the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and stayed with it, working for the past 10 years for Google as “chief internet evangelist.” Today he’s deeply concerned about the record we will leave to future generations about our time.

“If 100 years from now the digital picture of our society is not accessible, we will be an enigma to the 22nd century,” Cerf warned from the Decentralized Web Summit, a conference dedicated to dreaming up the next version of the web. “I’m very concerned that digital content will be less and less accessible, not because we can’t find the bits, but because we don’t know what the bits mean.”

Cerf is known for his visions, for his creation and for his three-piece suits, which stand out in a crowd of khaki-and-jeans programmers. Dressing up, he says, is a habit he picked up in Washington, where once he was complimented after congressional testimony he delivered in seersucker as being the “best dressed DARPA guy.” After that, the suits stayed.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment


…with so much that’s good!

Listen/read Nadia Bolz-Weber, House for All Sinners and Saints , Denver CO, U.S. –

(First watch video on top of audio recording/text. Wow!)

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Worshiping my own ability…and not forgiving

“I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise it can feel like I am worshiping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine.”

“Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’ not forgive us and smite those bastards who hurt us.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix

Posted in Devotional | Leave a comment

Liberal Christianity and Capitalism

So Union Theological Seminary, flagship school for liberal Christianity, plans to build a 40-story luxury condo high-rise on its Harlem campus to help fund its future. Toward this end, it hired New York City’s top real estate lobbyist.

Ironic that after years of anti-capitalist ethics and rhetoric at Union, suddenly the administration reclaims the school’s own Reinhold Niebuhr as having taught years ago that we never make decisions in a morally pure world. We live in a morally complex environment.

Maybe the “Christian realism” for which Niebuhr is known–and Union’s urgent need for money if it’s to survive—can restore a semblance of sanity to campus atmosphere and curriculum.

Will the administration kowtow to habitual anti-capitalism, or, worse, effectively silence upset students and faculty, OR open up frank, well-informed debate, including the Trustees? I’m not holding my breath.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

When love is irrelevant to marriage

Any link between love and marriage is relatively recent and largely Western. Through most of human history, love was not at all the point of marriage. (This bears on cultural attitudes today toward same-sex marriage reflected in comment below.) – See; also Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, and How Love Conquered Marriage; and the classic, Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World, called by John Updike: “high adventure.”

Toward understanding

…thought-provoking letter to Christian Century – March 30, 2016

My experience at an ecumenical seminary in sub-Saharan Africa leads me to conclude that my students had nothing at all in their culture that could help them make sense of same-sex marriage. It simply could not compute as something real or worth considering.

When one of my top students gave a presentation on his sense of marriage and its responsibilities, he never mentioned love. When I asked why, he answered that love would get in the way of a good marriage.

For him, the Western idea that you marry the one you love was unthinkable. He viewed marriage as a social construct with very practical goals. A marriage partner would be approved much as one would approve a business partner: caring and compatibility mattered, but most important were competence, reliability, loyalty, a good work ethic, and commitment to family and community. A marriage joined not two individuals but two families, and it should benefit the whole community.

It is not surprising that in a culture where love or passion or sexual attraction is not a basis for marriage, same-sex marriage is shocking and unthinkable. Perhaps this will not always be so, but respect for our brothers and sisters in Christ in other cultures requires us to listen deeply and understand the culture that gives them life and roots and meaning. Yes, enter dialogue and explain when the opportunity comes, but especially listen.

Ruth M. Brandon Everett, Wash.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

The Secret Ingredient for Peace

Is it money, power, sex, or love?

David Rothkopf – Foreign Policy March 17, 2016

Once, back when pterodactyls still filled the skies, I interviewed for a job working for a man in New York City with too much money and too much time on his hands. He wanted someone to help him decide whether he should buy a magazine and, if so, to work for said publication. I was just a kid still in graduate school when we began to talk, but I persuaded someone with a computer (which, typical for the era, was the size of a Volvo station wagon) into helping me do some projections. I provided these to the mogul in big blue binders full of perforated computer paper that virtually cried out to him that I was the future. In any event, he hired me. (And I proved so brilliant in my analysis that suggested he should not buy the magazine that I was soon again on the verge of unemployment.) Continue reading

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Understanding the Koran

“My Koran Problem” – Gsry Wills – The New York Review of Books – March 24, 2016

In the summer of 2015, I was asked by the directors of a university political science program to lecture about Americans’ attitudes toward Islam. I asked at the beginning how many in the audience (of about eighty students and faculty) had read the Koran. Four hands went up. Later, at lunch with faculty members, I was asked if the small number of politics students who knew the Koran surprised me. I had to answer, “Yes and no.” Yes, because 1.6 billion people live by this book, try to memorize it, quote it against each other as well as against the outside world. And now we are engaged in tense—potentially hostile—engagements with Muslims around the world. It made sense in dealing with Germany before World War II or with Russia during the cold war for serious people to have read Mein Kampf or Das Kapital. Yet many of those fighting for Germany or Russia had themselves not read Mein Kampf or Das Kapital. The same cannot be said of Muslims and the Koran.

But I could not feign surprise that others had not read the Koran, since I was slow to begin reading it and even slower to work at less inadequate readings of it. Not long after President Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, I was asked by a friend if I had ever read the Koran. I was embarrassed to answer her, “No.” I have spent most of my life studying in one way or another both Jewish and Christian texts and practices. It was ridiculous that I would remain completely ignorant of what a quarter of the world’s people not only believe in but live by (in different ways). Continue reading

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment