Month: April 2011

Would Gandhi have relished your death?

The key problem I have with pacificism is the readiness of the pacifist to sacrifice the innocent in service to the ideal. This is illustrated, above all, by the life and character of Gandhi. From “Among the Hagiographers” — Andrew Roberts’ review of Joseph Lelyveld’s Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India (Knopf, March 2011):

We do know for certain that he advised the Czechs and Jews to adopt nonviolence toward the Nazis, saying that “a single Jew standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees” might be enough “to melt Hitler’s heart.” (Nonviolence, in Gandhi’s view, would apparently have also worked for the Chinese against the Japanese invaders.) Starting a letter to Adolf Hitler with the words “My friend,” Gandhi egotistically asked: “Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?” He advised the Jews of Palestine to “rely on the goodwill of the Arabs” and wait for a Jewish state “till Arab opinion is ripe for it.”

In August 1942, with the Japanese at the gates of India, having captured most of Burma, Gandhi initiated a campaign designed to hinder the war effort and force the British to “Quit -India.” Had the genocidal Tokyo regime captured northeastern India, as it almost certainly would have succeeded in doing without British troops to halt it, the results for the Indian population would have been catastrophic. No fewer than 17% of Filipinos perished under Japanese occupation, and there is no reason to suppose that Indians would have fared any better. Fortunately, the British viceroy, Lord Wavell, simply imprisoned Gandhi and 60,000 of his followers and got on with the business of fighting the Japanese.

Gandhi claimed that there was “an exact parallel” between the British Empire and the Third Reich, yet while the British imprisoned him in luxury in the Aga Khan’s palace for 21 months -until the Japanese tide had receded in 1944, Hitler stated that he would simply have had Gandhi and his supporters shot. […]

Telling the Muslims who had been responsible for the massacres of thousands of Hindus in East Bengal in 1946 that Islam “was a religion of peace,” Gandhi nonetheless said to three of his workers who preceded him into its villages: “There will be no tears but only joy if tomorrow I get the news that all three of you were killed.” To a Hindu who asked how his co-religionists could ever return to villages from which they had been ethnically cleansed, Gandhi blithely replied: “I do not mind if each and every one of the 500 families in your area is done to death.” What mattered for him was the principle of nonviolence, and anyhow, as he told an orthodox Brahmin, he believed in re incarnation.


Resurrection: The Rock Video

Robert Holmes “Rob” Bell Jr. is an American “megachurch” pastor and author of such trendy books as Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality — his latest book, Love Wins, which from what I can tell is an exploration of Christian universalism, has caused quite a stir of late.

I don’t know a great deal about Rob Bell, save for my stumbling on this video this morning of Rob Bell preaching on the Resurrection.

Now — ordinarily, you might think the the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead would be sufficient enough to provoke some stirring of curiosity, wonder, awe.

Not so.

Rather, the resurrection (or Rob Bell’s speculations on the meaning of such) has to be accompanied by a hip modern rock soundtrack and a streaming psychedelic light show such as I might have enjoyed — oh, perhaps two decades ago, at a Grateful Dead concert, “under the influence.” To such an extent that, at least from my perspective, the content of his message is repressed, obscured by the barrage of the senses.

What is it with these modern, megachurch televangelists?

What does this say about the attention span of the intended audience?

Has the gospel become so boring that we really have to be entertained by it?

Robert P. George on the return of Eugenics

You’ve heard me make the argument about human dignity without any appeal to religious authority or biblical revelation or theological premises. But the most vivid expression of that idea is that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Whether or not that’s literally true, I would still hold that human beings have a certain dignity that distinguishes them from other material objects that we know about. There may be other creatures in the universe that possess a rational nature, and I would say that if there are such beings, they too are of inherent and equal dignity and cannot be reduced to the status of mere means or property. In the end, this is really the only reason to oppose something like slavery, or to consider that domination and conquest are a bad thing. So people who oppose these evils have to embrace some notion of the special worth—we can use the word “dignity” or “sanctity”—of a human being. But that means there are some ways you can’t treat human beings. You can’t treat them as instruments, or just the way you treat cows and horses. That is true even when it comes to breeding, or to improving the quality of the race. Or treating them like products—this is what Leon Kass is so worried about. He’s worried about reducing human beings to the status of products of manufacture. And he’s absolutely right to be concerned about that. That is incompatible with our dignity as human beings.

Which leads me to think that the problem with eugenics is eugenics itself. It’s not just that the eugenics practiced by the Nazis was coercive. The idea predated the Nazis. The book Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens (Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life) was not written by the Nazis. It was written by German progressives in the Weimar period, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche, who were, respectively (as I recall), a jurist and a medical doctor. And they weren’t thugs like the Nazis; they were well-educated, well-intentioned, polite people—the kind of people that you’d be pleased to have dinner with. But I believe they embraced a very bad idea that was easily taken by the Nazis as a justification for the atrocities that they committed. So I would like to see eugenics itself, and not just the Nazi version of it, relegated to the ash-heap of history. Today we are seeing a revival in eugenics, this time under the cover of (and often in the name of) autonomy. People say, for example, that so long as it is parents who are choosing to abort a Down syndrome baby, or failing to treat a handicapped newborn, and it’s not the state mandating it, then it’s okay. That, I believe, represents the abandonment of something precious in our civilization and in our polity. And that’s the idea of the equality and dignity of all human beings. This treasure of our civilization is the idea that, in some fundamental sense, all of us are created equal.

Democratic Bioethics and Eugenics The Public Discourse April 15, 2011. Sherif Gergis’ discussion with Arthur Caplan, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and unofficial “dean” of liberal bioethicists, and Robert P. George, professor at Princeton University and member of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics.

Note [via Wikipedia]: “In June 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration informed members of the Council that their services were no longer needed. Through a spokeperson, Obama made clear that he intended to replace the committee with a body that “offers practical policy options” rather than philosophical guidance.

He is Risen! ~ Happy Easter!

“Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth.
And we celebrate the God who was made man,
who suffered, died, was buried
and rose again.

We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation.

We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence.

We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that
reason is stronger than unreason,
truth stronger than lies,
love stronger than death.

We celebrate the first day because we know that
the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever.

We celebrate it because we know that
those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled:

“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good”
(Gen 1:31).


Easter Vigil: Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI
St. Peter’s Basilica. 23 April 2011.

Readings for Holy Week 2011

(Lifted from Communio) – Readings for Holy Week 2011:

Marc Ouellet. The Mystery of Easter and the Culture of Death (1996)
Juan M. Sara. Descensus ad inferos. Dawn of Hope. Aspects of Holy Saturday in the Trilogy of Hans Urs von Balthasar (2005)
Christoph Dohmen. The Suffering Servant and the Passion of Jesus (2003)
José Granados. Toward a Theology of the Suffering Body (2006)
Jan-Heiner Tück. The Cross as the Locus of Truth: Joseph Ratzinger’s Meditations on the Way of the Cross (2006)
Hans Urs von Balthasar. Joy and the Cross (2004)
Jean-Pierre Batut. Does the Father Suffer? (2003)
José Granados. The New Hosannah in the New Temple: Jesus’ Entry Into Jerusalem (2009)
Robert Spaemann. When Death Becomes Inhuman (2006)
Jan-Heiner Tück. The Utmost: On the Possibilities and Limits of a Trinitarian Theology of the Cross (2003)