Political Islam and Modernity

— excerpt adapted from September/October 2016 Foreign Affairs review essay · “Mosque and State” by Malise Ruthven, author Islam in the World.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/mosque-and-state )

The Islamic world could not follow only the European path toward Enlightenment and modernity by way of reformation. Even Christianity and, more broadly, we in the West, didn’t really follow that path–“at least as it is often portrayed.”

“The Enlightenment was the outcome not only of the Reformation but also of centuries of violent religious conflict, after which sensible people concluded that they were not improving their lots by killing one another in the name of God.

“That is the grim lesson that Muslims in the contemporary Middle East may yet find themselves learning from European history.”

What the West was not spared on the way to Enlightenment the Muslim world is not being spared. History, including our own, has lessons to teach us all. Certainly, historically, we in the West have not been superior to what the Middle East is going through.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Led through snares and dangers

From the novel Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

If you could do it, I suppose it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the King’s Highway past appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City. But that is not the way I have done it so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

The garden and the sword

Perhaps everybody has a garden of Eden, I don’t know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or: it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

What Diplomacy Needs

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – “US Diplomacy: Realism and Reality” – New York Review of Books 8/18/16

How is a statesman to advance his nation’s interests? For as long as states have existed, diplomats have grappled with this question. And among US diplomats, Henry Kissinger is most associated with the realpolitik approach, arguing that the job of the statesman is to manage relationships—with allies and adversaries alike—to maximize his nation’s security, prosperity, and power.

In Kissinger’s view, America’s tragic flaw has been believing that our principles are universal principles, and seeking to extend human rights far beyond our nation’s borders. This “messianic” belief, as he has characterized it, has repeatedly led American statesmen to make decisions that have undermined our interests and weakened our standing in the world—from pursuing costly humanitarian interventions to abandoning leaders who, while perhaps repressive, helped safeguard our security.

“No nation,” Kissinger wrote in Diplomacy,

has ever imposed the moral demands on itself that America has. And no country has so tormented itself over the gap between its moral values, which are by definition absolute, and the imperfection inherent in the concrete situations to which they must be applied.

Continue reading

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

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. – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2016/05/sermon-on-paul-silas-and-the-prayers-of-my-mother/

(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