Monday, March 24, 2003


The Diet Coke Civilization, the Realities of War, and the "Right to Interfere" with Human Rights Abusers

In a 1993 interview of one of France's leading nouvelle philosophes -- Bernard Henri-Levy -- reporter Nathan Gardels commented, "The people [of Europe] lack the courage of their convictions. As Milan Kundera, among others, has observed, Europeans have become too comfortable to wage war for moral reasons."

Henri-Levy responded, "Yes, I agree. The idea of war has become inconceivable for the developed countries. War is unthinkable. Or rather, we are willing to make war on one condition: that no one of us dies. This idea is consistent with the general trend of the Diet Coke civilization: we want sugar without calories, butter without fat, birth without labor pains, dying without suffering. So why not war without dying? The suppression of negativity; light without darkness that is the strange new dream of our civilization. It is our fatal illusion."

This statement is not true of most Americans today; and, as Henri-Levy himself now agrees, the guilt over Bosnia has made it less true in Europe, as well. No one in college today remembers the Vietnam War from experience, and thus does not suffer from any "syndromes" or complexes about the use of force. Most students today were mere toddlers when Ronald Reagan sent troops into Grenada.

The American public is strong enough to do what has to be done in Iraq, including supporting the deployment of ground troops. Americans are ready to undertake significant military and humanitarian tasks. That this responsibility falls primarily upon the US is not a statement of hubris, but merely of fact, given the wealth of resources at the disposal of the US. We can hope that some Western nations will follow.

Realities of War

In a book I'm reading by John Eldredge, he reminds us of the realities
of war
: "After the Allies took the beachhead at Normandy, the war wasn't
over. In some ways, it had just begun. Stephen Ambrose has given us many
unforgettable stories of what followed that famous landing in Citizen
, his record of how the Allies won the war. Many
of those stories are almost parables in their meaning. Her is one that
followed on the heels of D-Day. It is June 7, 1944:

Brig. Gen. Norman "Dutch" Cota, assistant division commander of the 29th.
came on a group of infantry pinned down by some Germans in a farmhouse.
He asked the captain in command why his men were making no effort to take
the building. "Sir, the Germans are in there, shooting at us," the
captain replied. "Well, I'll tell you what, captain," said Cota,
unbuckling two grenades from his jacket. "You and your men start shooting
at them. I'll take a squad of men and you and your men watch carefully.
I'll show you how to take a house with Germans in it." Cota led his
squad around a hedge to get as close as possible to the house. Suddenly,
he gave a whoop and raced forward, the squad following, yelling like wild
men. As they tossed grenades into the windows, Cota and another man
kicked in the front door, tossed a couple grenades inside, waited for the
explosions, then dashed inside the house. The surviving Germans inside
were streaming out the back door, running for their lives. Cota returned
to the captain. "You've seen hot to take a house," said the general,
still out of breath. "Do you understand? Do you know how to do it now?"
"Yes, sir."

What can we learn from the parable. Why were those guys pinned down?
First, they seemed almost surprised they were being shot at. "They're
shooting at us, sir." Hello? That's what happens in war -- you get shot
at. Have you forgotten? We were born into a world at war. This scene
we're living in is no sitcom; it's bloody battle."

As a Dept. of Defense press conference made clear today, the purpose of war (from the military perspective) is to kill people and break things. One of the realities of war is that things can go wrong. We expect casualties, and we can expect that the enemy won't respect conventions and will do every despicable trick he can. To expect otherwise is foolish.

"Right to Interfere?"

In a 1993 interview with New Perspectives Quarterly, Samuel Huntington said that "the best way to protect human rights in the long run is to push a country toward democratization. . . . At the same time, there ought to be ways to punish [a] government by imposing some penalties for violation of human rights."

Interestingly, Bernard
, the French minister of humanitarian affairs under the last Socialist government, argues that the West should be more aggressive in the conflict of civilizations, taking upon itself the "right to interfere" to prevent the violation of human rights. He argues, for example, that if a woman in the Sudan asks for protection against a clitorectomy, the West should come to her aid.

Huntington agrees "where there are sustained, gross violations of human rights. . . . The U.N. sanctioned such intervention to help the Kurds and in Somalia. But, for now, there is no general support for such a 'right to interfere.' But there is another type of intervention that I believe may be more acceptable, and with which I agree: the right of the global democratic community to prevent the reversion of what has become a democratic country to authoritarianism. It is a kind of 'democratic Brezhnev doctrine.'"

Thursday, March 20, 2003


National Sovereignty in the New World Order

Matt Tiscareno (a.k.a. "Tisco")
has this to say "... about the 'competent authority' issue [in just war

The founding concept of American
democracy was that people should be able to govern their own affairs
without outside (specifically, European) interference. Nowadays, the
trendy position seems to be that we should surrender that right to the
U.N. If the day ever comes that Americans cannot do what they believe is
right without permission from the French, that will be the day that the
freedom of our nation has died.

Especially given recent events, I don't think we have to worry about
that prospect. But questions regarding national sovereignty are
important to address nonetheless. For as the "old world order" fades, we
will have to address the role of national sovereignty in the new world

At a
meeting of some old members of past peace movements in 1995, href="">William Sloane
, former head of SANE, said, "Religious people particularly are
called on to moderate national sovereignty and to increase global loyalty
and so help the United Nations." Religious people are indeed called on to
do that, by folk such as Mr. Coffin. But it is doubtful that there is any
religious reason to reduce national sovereignty in favor of the political
apparatus of the UN. It is far from self-evident that "global loyalty" is
morally superior to national loyalty or, for that matter, local loyalty.

Richard John Neuhaus replies, "I'm not sure what is meant by 'global
loyalty' -- perhaps it would become a virtue in the event of href="">invasion from
other planets
-- but I am sure that such jargon contributes little to
understanding why so many thoughtful Americans are coming to a jaundiced
view of the UN and other institutions created in support of an
internationalism that is now unsupported by clear doctrine, or any
doctrine at all."

If "global loyalty" isn't sacred, is national sovereignty? Neuhaus doesn't believe so.
"The sacralized nation-state is one of the great idols of modern history."

While perhaps not canonized as sacred, for nineteenth-century American href="">Orestes A.
, philosopher, minister, essayist, and reviewer, national
sovereignty accords with the real but limited human powers of knowing
and loving one another. Brownson even asserts that "he who dies on the
battlefield fighting for his country ranks with him who dies at the stake
for his faith." More precisely, "Civic virtues are themselves religious
virtues, or at least virtues without which there are no religious virtues,
since no man who does not love his brother does or can love God." Human
beings approach the universal through the particular, and love of the
personal Creator cannot be separated from other particular human beings.
Human love is never for human beings in general. All men are brothers, but
men come to know brotherly love only when they experience political
solidarity with their fellow citizens.

Pierre Manent, a
French Catholic political thinker, is one of the most accomplished
defenders of the nation in general, and his own French nation in
particular. This is remarkable given that France, like most
of the rest of Europe, is in the process of enthusiastically
dissolving its own sovereignty in favor of the transpolitical entity of
the European Union. Manent notes
that modern democracy needs to be instantiated in a "body." It needs
limits, a "territorial framework," that may seem arbitrary from a
theological perspective but is indispensable for the existence
of political life. Manent concludes that republican government -- like
government -- must be territorial, and loyalty, more than consent, must be
the foundation of good government and political life.

The Fate of the United Nations

Regarding the fate of the UN, many in America have been talking for
years about the its increasing irrelevance in world affairs. President
Bush has warned that if the UN does not show more "backbone," it risks
going the way of the League of Nations, ending up as an international
"debating society."

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst, recently wrote of the
UN's failure in an article of the Moscow Times:

As the United States this week finally
and firmly assumed its role as undisputed world hegemon, the old world
order created in 1945 began to fold. It was France and Russia that gave
the existing system the kiss of death by exposing its emptiness and
fundamental immorality.

. . .

[T]he balance between East and West, reflected in the Security Council,
together with the principle of absolute sovereignty, helped keep an array
of bloody dictatorships in power for decades.
The recent fracas in the Security Council over Iraq was mostly about the
limits of sovereignty. France, Russia, Germany and China fully agreed that
Iraq should get rid of its weapons of mass destruction but argued that
this goal could be accomplished by international inspections. At the same
time, it was stressed that any attempt to change the regime was illegal
and unacceptable.

Felgenhauer sees the old world order collapsing "as a result of our own
-- together with France's -- diplomatic insanity."

"The Old European model for international affairs is dying," says
Janet Daley in a recent column.
"This is the first week of the future. . . [T]he 21st century will be about
the New World: which is to say, America, with a small accompaniment from
other Anglophone countries. . . .
The unquestioning reverence for democracy and personal liberty with which
Americans are raised is the precise antidote to the credo of the new
enemy. And so they will fight this fight now in the only way that it can
be fought: with the unflinching dedication of true believers, while the
Old Europeans cringe on the sidelines."

Welcome to the New World Order

As a sovereign nation, America has chosen to defend itself by the pre-emptive attack of a nation, or at least a "bloody dictatorship" regime, whose sovereignty it did not recognize. We are clearly "interfering" with the affairs of Iraq, the rationale being that a tyrranical regime has held the people of Iraq captive through lethal force and may try to extend the use of that lethal force to any nation which interferes -- using weapons of mass murder which it has used in the past, and which it has been allegedly developing. Thus the need in the minds of the Bush Administration for the much bruited "regime change." And in this case, regime change requires action, not words, and the use of lethal force, not endless bureaucratic wrangling.

France and Russia tried to contain America's "aggression," but couldn't, having failed to offer an effective and acceptable alternative to the use of force. What the future world order may look like is now largely up to US (and to speculation). My guess is that America won't be consulting France and Russia in this regard any time soon.

One thing is for sure: tyrrants beware! Maybe Bush is a "cowboy," an idealistic cowboy in the Wild West of contemporary geopolitics. He's tired of cynics, moral relativists, and impotent councils who let evil men enslave their own countrymen and threaten civilization.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

When There Is No Peace

The 'just war tradition' is a theory of statecraft and a form of moral reasoning that traces its origins to St. Augustine in fifth-century North Africa. The just war tradition insists that war can be the sort of thing Christians ought to support, a far cry from those who treat it as a "necessary evil". It holds that the person who uses just force is acting in a way consonant with God's wishes and was, though in a way less praiseworthy than bishops and clerics, is following Christ. In the international debate launched by the 'war against terrorism' and the threat of 'outlaw states armed with weapons of mass destruction,' we can hear echoes of the moral reasoning of Augustine and his successors:

  • What is the just cause that would justify putting our armed forces, and the American homeland, in harm's way?
  • Who has the authority to wage war? The U.S. President? The UN?
  • Is it ever right to use armed force first?
  • How can the use of armed force
    contribute to the pursuit of justice, freedom, and order in world affairs?

The just war tradition is an attempt to think through the public meaning of the great commandment of loving our neighbor. The public good is the ultimate end of just war thinking; defending and advancing the public good is what legitimate governments are for; and that is why provision for the common defense is a moral obligation of states, not an option. The just war tradition begins, in other words, with a judgment about the moral obligations of rightly constituted public authority. This line of thinking starts with a 'presumption for justice,' not a 'presumption against violence.'

The presumption for justice, and for rightly ordered public authority's moral obligation to pursue justice, is what sets the horizon for moral analysis in just war thinking. George Weigel, a modern day proponent of the just war tradition, states that "For fifteen hundred years, as it has been developed amdist the historical white water of political, technological, and military change, the just war tradition has allowed men and women to avoid the trap of moral muteness, to think through the tangle of problems in a decision to go to war and in the conduct of war itself--and to do it all in a way that recognizes the distinctive realities of war."

Classic international relations theory defines a more specific goal within that framework: public authority is to pursue a just peace, the peace of tranquillitas ordinis, the peace of "right order," among nations. Mere Christianity does not teach the possibility of a world without conflict, a utopian fantasy that ill fits biblical religion. However, some political and religious thinkers do teach the possibility of the peace of order, which (in contemporary terms) means, in the words of George Weigel, "the peace of dynamic and rightly ordered political community," meaning that legal and political processes are the primary instruments for resolving conflict. That is the "order" that right–minded governments are to defend and advance in the contemporary world.

According to the tradition, the criteria for judging a war to be just are that it be for a just cause, be declared by a competent authority, have a reasonable likelihood of success, be unlikely to cause more evil than it prevents (e.g., discriminate between combatants and non-combatants), and be a last resort.

  • Just Cause. International terrorism, of which we had a direct national experience with on September 11, 2001, is a delibrate assault, through the murder of innocents, on the very possibility of order in world affairs. That is why the terror networks must be dismantled or destroyed. The peace of order is also under grave threat when vicious, aggressive regimes acquire weapons of mass destruction--weapons that we must assume, on the basis of their treatment of their own citizens, these regimes will not hesitate to use against others. George Weigel says, "That is why there is a moral obligation to ensure that this lethal combination of irrational and aggressive regimes, weapons of mass destruction, and credible delivery systems does not go unchallenged. That is why there is a moral obligation to rid the world of this threat to the peace and security of all. Peace, rightly understood, demands it."

    New weapons capabilities and outlaw or "rogue" states require a development of the concept of "defense against aggression." it makes little moral sense to suggest that the United States must wait until a North Korea or Iraq or Iran actually launches a ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon of mass destruction before we can legitimately do something about it. Note that weapons of mass destruction are clearly not aggressions waiting to happen when they are possessed by stable, law-abiding states. No Frenchman goes to bed nervous about Great Britain's nuclear weapons, and no sane Mexican or Canadian worries about a preemptive nuclear attack from the United States. The same cannot be said of Iraq's neighbors. We can conclude that the cause of preventing nuclear devestation or its threat is just.

  • Competent Authority. In the current debate, the question boils down to whether "competent authority" now resides in the United Nations only. Of course, the public authorities of a nation-state have an obligation to defend the security of those for whom they have assumed responsibility. International law recognizes this; the "defense against aggression" concept of just cause shapes Articles 2 and 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. In response to those who say that no government has the moral authority to declare war--e.g., those who suggest that the United States had somehow brought the attacks on itself, by reasons of its dominant economic and cultural position in the world, its Middle East policy, or some combination thereof--scholar David Yuego makes an essential point:

    The authority of the government to protect the law-abiding and impose penalties on evildoers is not a reward for the government's virtue or good conduct. . . . The protection of citizens and the execution of penalty on peace-breakers is the commission which constitutes government, not a contingent right which it must somehow earn. . . . Many or indeed most of the institutional bearers of governmental authority are unworthy of it, often flagrantly so, themselves stained with crime. But this does not make it any less the vocation of government to protect the innocent and punish evildoers. A government which refused to safeguard citizens and exercise judgment on wrong out of a sense of the guilt of past crime would only add the further crime of dereliction of duty to its catalog of offenses.

    That the UN Charter itself recognizes an inalienable national right to self-defense suggests that the Charter does not claim sole authority to legitimate the use of armed force for the Security Council; if you are under attack, according to the Charter, you don’t have to wait for the permission of China, France, Russia, or others of the veto-wielding powers to defend yourself.
    Building coalitions of support for dismantling the international terror networks and denying rogue states lethal weapons capacities is politically desirable (and in some instances militarily essential), but it is doubtful that it is essential. According to George Weigel, "The United States has a unique responsibility for leadership in the war against terrorism and the struggle for world order; that is not a statement of hubris but of empirical fact. That responsibility may have to be exercised unilaterally on occasion."

    That being said, war on Iraq has been authorized by the U.S. Congress, and will be, we assume very soon, by the President of the U.S., who is entrusted with the protection of over a quarter of a billion people. He must do what he can to protect his people, acting not out of vengeance, but out of a realistic assessment of the needs of self-defense, and the needs of global security. Reflecting the global security interests reflected in such a war, the U.S. declaration is backed by a coalition of 45 nations, including Britain and Australia.

  • Likelihood of Success and Likelihood of Causing Less Evil Than It Prevents. The best determination of the military at the President's command is that a war would be very likely to succeed and would bring more good than ill. No targeting of civilians is contemplated, and the U.S. military is in theory powerful enough to distinguish between combatants and non-combtatants without putting its soldiers at unnecessary risk. If this cannot be done without risking many lives, then we will sadly have to expect civilian casualties. If there is a clear and present danger, governments have a responsibility to act, perhaps with much bloodshed, all the while following Lincoln's dictum, "with malice toward none, with charity toward all."

  • Last Resort. The use of proportionate and discriminate armed force is the last point in a series of options, and prior, nonmilitary options (legal, diplomatic, economic, etc.) must be serially exhausted before the criterion of last resort is satisfied. George Weigel states, "For rogue states developing or deploying weapons of mass destruction, a developed just war tradition would recognize that here. . . last resort cannot be understood mathematically, as the terminal point of a lengthy series of nonmilitary alternatives. Can we not say that last resort has been satisfied in those cases when a rogue state has made plain, by its conduct, that it holds international law in contempt and that no diplomatic solution to the threat it poses is likely, and when it can be demonstrated that the threat the rogue state poses is intensifying? I think we can. Indeed, I think we must."

    It can be argued, and in fact has been the policy of many Western nations since the early 1990s, that aggressive intent and the lack of effective internal political controls in some states' regimes demands that they not be permitted to acquire weapons of mass destruction. "Until such point as the international political community has evolved to the degree that international organizations can effectively disarm such regimes," declares George Weigel, "the responsibility for the defense of order in these extreme circumstances will lie elsewhere." Meaning, the U.S. and its coalition partners must be perepared to defend themselves against rogue states if the U.N. has shown itself to be impotent in this regard.

    A Humble Peace. The "peace" sought after, the peace of order, is, admittedly, a humble sort of peace. It can coexist with bruised spirits, broken hearts, and ill will. It is a peace in which swords remain--sheathed or used to defend order--but are not yet beaten into plowshares. It has, however, one great advantage for moral realists, Christian and otherwise: it is a peace that can be achieved in this world, in and among nations through the instrument of politics. It is not the sullen "peace" of a well-run authoritarian regime; it is a peace built on foundations of constitutional, commutative, and social justice. It is the peace that we are now defending in the war against global terrorism and against aggressor states seeking weapons of mass destruction.
  • Monday, March 17, 2003

    St. Patrick's Day

    Ireland is hereToday is St. Patrick's Day. If you're in Ireland, don't expect a New York City style celebration. It's a somber day of reflection, honoring a man who played a significant part in the unfolding story of humanity. Without Patrick, there would have been no Irish Christians to preserve Greek and Christian thought. And without the preservation of Greek and Christian thought, there would have been no one to remind the West of its heritage, no Rennaisance, etc. The world we live in would have been a very different place.

    I pay attention to that sort of thing. Plus, part of my ancestry is Irish. I've learned Patrick was a former captured slave who was called by a vision of Christ to be a missionary to the Irish in the fifth century. Paul may have been the first such appointment. What is surprising is that there were four centuries between the two when there were no missionaries of note.

    For Roman citizens, being in a Roman city or villa was the place to be. It was unthinkable, even for someone like Augustine, to think of venturing beyond the Ecumene--the territory of Roman governance. Outisde the Imperium, the map may as well have said "Here do be monsters" as many medieval maps would say of unmapped territory. Even Paul, great Christian missionary though he was, never ventured beyond the Greco-Roman Imperium.

    Celtic CrossPatrick was the first missionary to take the gospel to the pagani, the barbarians beyond the reach of Roman law. He followed Jesus' command to take the Gospel to the "ends of the earth." "The Gospel," he reminded his accusers late in his life,
    "has been preached to the point beyond which there is no one"--nothing but ocean. Like Paul before him, he was not blind to the dangers that he faced: "Every day I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved--whatever may come my way. But I am not afraid of these things, because of the promises of heaven; for I have put myself in the hands of God Almighty."

    At one point, one rising petty king along the western coast of Britain, Coroticus, fell upon the peaceful northern coast of Ireland, butchering many, and taking away thousands of Patrick's converts as slaves. Patrick appeals to fellow British citizens to do something, writing of this "crime so horrible and unspeakable." He writes from experience, having been taken from the comfortable and predictable life of a British Roman village at age sixteen to be a slave shepherd in eastern Ireland, where he suffered hunger and cold, and much loneliness, for seven long years.

    Historian Thomas Cahill has declared Patrick "the first human being in the history of the world to speak out unequivocally agains slavery." No voice as strong would be heard until the seventeenth century. He's a real example of a missionary who was concerned not only with people's spiritual well-being, but also their social and physical well-being.

    Patrick dearly loved his adopted people, loved them as individuals, beyond a generalized "Christian" benevolence. His emotional grasp of the Christian truth made him the perfect vessel for reaching Ireland's rugged, passionate, warrior people. He could speak to their Iron Age ethos of beauty, loyalty, bravery, and generosity. Of his warrior children in Christ, he wrote: "O most dear ones. . . I can see you, beginning the journey to the land where there is no night nor sorrow nor death. . . . You shall reign with the apostles and prophets and martyrs. You shall seize the everlasting kingdoms, as he himself proclaimed when he said: 'They shall come from east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.'" He understood God's grace (if not God's sense of irony); that even slave traders can turn into liberators, even murderers can act as peacemakers, even barbarians can take their places among the nobility of heaven.

    The following is from Patrick's great prayer in Irish Gaelic, known as "Saint Patrick's Breastplate."
    I arise today
    Through God's strength to pilot me:
    God's might to uphold me,
    God's wisdom to guide me,
    God's eye to look before me,
    God's ear to hear me,
    God's word to speak for me,
    God's hand to guard me,
    God's way to lie before me,
    God's shield to protect me,
    God's host to save me
    From snares of devils,
    From temptations of vices,
    From everyone who shall wish me ill,
    Afar and anear,
    Alone and in multitude.

    . . .

    I arise today
    What's in me pot o' gold?Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
    Through belief in the threeness,
    Through confession of the oneness,
    Of the Creator of Creation.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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    Thursday, March 13, 2003

    Perfect Justice and Mercy

    Are mercy and justice, love and the law, at odds?

    That's the question I pose, and I hope to get some feedback. But first, some thoughts.

    Any mother or father knows that treating all of one's children alike is unjust--the three-year-old girl needs to be treated one way and the seventeen-year-old young man another. If both punched their best friends, the one should be sent to the corner while the other might be grounded for a time. It would silly to argue that since both have committed the same act, they should be punished similarly, that to punish the little girl lightly would be to frustrate justice. We don't expect children to control their anger as well as adults, and so it would be insane to hold the toddler to the moral standard of an adult. To reward and punish each child individually would be both merciful and just.

    To treat everyone the same, i.e., to treat everyone as other than the individual that he or she is, would be unjust. Yet human laws are applied without regard to the personal history and capabilities of each person subject to those laws. So it would seem that every human law is unjust.

    The idea that every human law is imperfectly just, and therefore unjust to some extent, makes sense because we can imagine a perfectly just judge who administers perfect justice-- who assesses a person's talents, motives, opportunities, weaknesses, ideals, history, and everything else about him, and then judges all his actions against the standard of what he is able to do.

    The perfect judge would need to apply an infinitely complex law, so that each person under the law would be held to a standard that is individually tailored to his situation. Such a judge would need to be omniscient to know an infinitely complex law, and to know men's hearts, evaluating them in the mysterious intimacy of their free choices. He would have to care enough about the law and the people to administer the law perfectly. The perfect judge would also have to be the perfect lawgiver, whose laws are not only infinitely complex but also ordered toward a perfectly just society.

    This judge, king, and lawgiver would have laws that are dynamic, so that they constantly adjust to reflect what a person could be expected to achieve at any given moment, and his sentences would have to be therapeutic, so that when a person fails to uphold his personal law he is rehabilitated and even strengthened because of the punishment.

    It should be obvious that only God could be this perfect judge, lawgiver, and king. And if such a God exists, then all human laws are imperfectly just, which is to say unjust. It should also be clear that this perfect justice is no different than perfect mercy. Each law is tailored to the individual person, so that what he is expected to do is always within his reach. As Jesus said, the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. If an individual meets one set of expectations he is presented with new demands, so that he journeys uphill until he is at all times living up to his full potential. Jesus taught that whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. The journey is either uphill or downhill, there can be no stagnation. If he fails to meet one set of expectations, he is given another chance to conform to a new set, and to continue, step by step, uphill to become all he can be. There is no distinction here between strictness and leniency, the impersonal and the personal. God's justice is completely personal, and is therefore neither strict nor lenient.

    Pope John Paul II reminds us that Jesus is both judge and healer. It is the nature of divine justice that it is identical with mercy. Both can be explained in terms of helping each person be all that God intended him to be. The difference between divine and human justice is clear--nowhere is man's justice proportionate to God's; nowhere are his tribunals as fair, nor anywhere his sentences as wise.

    But being aware of this, we should aspire to human justice that is related to the perfect justice and mercy of God. Christians cannot be satisfied with the cruelties of human justice, despite the temptation to do so. Jesus warns, For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. But also, Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. The heart of the gospel ethic is to treat others with the love and mercy characteristic of God.

    Sometimes, love of one's neighbor compels one to act in his defense. The Pope declares, in a message given on World Peace Day in 2001, "There exists. . .a right to defend oneself against terrorism," and the struggle against terrorists "must be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits." Far-flung military operations with unknown consequences are not necessarily the demands of perfect justice. Not is pacifism the necessary consequence of the imitation of God's mercy.

    Having noted this, we need to stop and ask ourselves Quo vadis?, or Where do we go from here?

    Monday, March 10, 2003


    On Slashdot and Sunset Room

    Looks like the work I do on the "Interplanetary Superhighway" is being discussed on Slashdot, a discussion site for self-described nerds. If you look closely, you'll even find a link to Tisco's adviser's page (Renu Malhotra). I've got my own site dedicated to the Interplanetary Transport Network.

    Colin BishopWell, this past weekend, there was no karaoke at the Linbrook Bowl in Anaheim, however there were some adventures at Disneyland Hotel. The nazis there now check the trunks of everyone who drives up. I used to bike there from home at age twelve to play video games.

    Sid PadmanabhaSid was also was here this past weekend. He's a friend who got his bachelor's degree with me. He's been in medical school for four years and he'll soon be hearing about where he'll be doing his residency, specializing in radiology. He and I and Ryan Bacon hit the town Saturday night and told greatly exaggerated tales of chivalry. And then ate some Del Taco.

    We went to The Continental in Old Town Fullerton last night. There was a very band there; Sunset Room, a fusion of jazz and blues with electronica. Some songs reminded me of Portishead; some were in a category of their own. Check them out.

    Sometime in the future, I'll write about how "love sometimes pulls the trigger." For now, I have to run some errands.

    ps: I've never been to New Orleans.

    Thursday, March 06, 2003


    Magical Realism Gypsy

    Yeah, hey kiddos!!! So I saw a little bit of Married by America last night, that new reality TV show, ya know... How totally stupid. And I listened to some Gypsy Kings! waaaayyy cool. so my friends Colin and John are in town for the weekend. Since Colin's getting married in exactly six months after this friday, we're going to inaugurate in a whole *bachelor season*, not just one part-tay.

    So back to my experiences in New orleans during the Superbowl last year... The saturday before, I was driving this crazy pimp-mobile around the streets, wearing a crazy get-up and strolled into some club. everyone thought me and my friends were ridiculously famous... we went to Club "J" cuz my old fraternity president, Arnold, was like a bouncer and tons of my friends were getting in and we saw tons of the NFL players and Marlon and Shawn Wayans and just a whole bunch of celebs there. Except my very white friend from college, Steph, accidently ended up in the VIBE african american music pre superbowl party and she was the ONLY white person there. Poor thing was soo drunk, she didn't even know. But yeah, so we got home around 6 (when we finally found the car by aladdin bail bonds) and I had to be up at 7 to get to the superbowl. So I went to the game with the lovely ladies of AXO and had fun then took a short nap to gear up for that nights party downtown AGAIN. This time we got a little clever and parked at the mall and took the bus down to fifth ave. Wayyyyy smarter. So we partied hard again till about 2... we danced, and saw tons of street performers...

    Oh, there goes gravity. (back to reality), check out the yahoo search results for Oktoberfest and nudity

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003


    The City of God and the City of Man

    I have heard some say that the defining achievement of the West has been
    to resolve the contest between religion and politics by conceiving of the
    state as an independent source of human authority, deriving its legitimacy
    not from divine commands, but from the will of the citizens whom it

    A case in point.
    Consider the U.S. Declaration of Independence, where it is
    stated that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
    powers from the consent of the governed." Although the Founding Fathers of
    America appealed "to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our
    intentions," they declared a new government "in the Name, and by the
    Authority of the good People of these Colonies."

    God and Caesar, church and state, spiritual authority and temporal
    authority, have been a prevailing dualism in Western culture.
    Now comes the controversial part, with which I believe some people may
    disagree. But alas, "let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

    This disentanglement of politics from religion was made possible by
    Ideas such as
    Augustine's theory of the
    two cities
    and the
    medieval doctrine
    of the two swords
    produced a Western conception of the
    state as an independent, secular jurisdiction. This conception is the
    necessary prerequisite of politics understood as a distinct human activity,
    rather than as the perpetuation of some other sort of activity in another
    guise (e.g., worship or warfare). Even those who do no agree about the
    ultimate source of religious authority can mutually submit to the merely
    temporal jurisdiction of the earthly state.

    The achievement of establishing the independent sphere of politics is what
    distinguishes the West from "the rest," and particularly from the Islamic
    world. Only in Hindu civilization are religion and politics also so
    distinctly separated. As href="">Samuel
    states succintly,

    In Islam, God is Caesar; in China and Japan, Caesar is God; in Orthodoxy,
    God is Caesar's junior partner. The separation and recurring clashes
    between church and state that typify Western civilization have existed in
    no other civilization.

    Unlike Christianity, which distinguishes the things of Caesar from those of
    God, Islam recognizes neither "the state as an independent object of
    loyalty" nor "secular ... jurisdiction as a genuine source of law," to
    quote href="">Roger
    ; on the contrary, it conceives of the universal divine law as a
    "fully comprehensible system of commands." It is thus unable to sustain
    politics as a distinct form of activity. This refusal to recognize any
    source of political authority independent of the divine command tends
    either to undermine the state altogether (whenever it is charged with
    having departed from an ideal of religious purity) or to usher in
    totalitarianism (since a state charged with implementing divine decrees
    must inevitably be concerned with our spiritual perfection).

    Separation of Church and State

    In our day, talk of the separation of church and state functions primarily
    as an easy way out, a way of avoiding the more challenging task of
    constructing a richer, more nuanced set of distinctions. For what
    Christian thought has really done has not been to separate church and
    state, but rather to distinguish between the City of God and the City of
    Man, which is not exactly the same thing. Speaking of the "separation of
    church and state" encourages the mistaken assumption that the state can
    sustain itself, chugging along indeginitely without the needing to
    maintain, or even recognize, the foundations upon which it rests.

    If the vision of politics as a distinct, limited form of human activity
    owes its existence to conceptual possibilities opened up by
    Christianity--and I think it does--then the continued vitality of
    Christianity cannot be a matter of political indifference. That is not to
    say that the state itself must again be openly religious. It is to say,
    though, that the categories in which these distinctions are discussed, e.g.
    private and public, cultural and political, individual and social, require more thorough elaboration.

    Christians in the West may not recognize it, but a vital and thoughtful faith helps to sustain the institutions they cherish. When faced with an enemy who is
    uncompromisingly committed to the total destruction of what he perceives to
    be the corrupt, decadent, 'godless West,' it is important to recognize and
    defend the spiritual foundations of those beloved institutions.

    Monday, March 03, 2003


    Belated Friday Five

    Taking the clue from Jenny, I will answer the Friday Five, a bit late, granted, but whatever. Thanks for finding some good questions, Jenny! Anyway, I didn't answer them Friday `cause I spent last Friday putting the finishing touches on a lecture that I gave for a course in my department and hanging out with Chris, Alex, Bill Reese, and company in Anaheim.

    1. What is your favorite type of literature to read (magazine, newspaper, novels, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)?

    Nonfiction and novels, by the likes of C.S. Lewis, Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kathleen Norris, Paul Davies, and Philip Yancey.

    2. What is your favorite novel?

    I guess I have two: the only two novels I've read twice.
    Dune by Frank Herbert and 1984 by George Orwell.

    3. Do you have a favorite poem? (Share it!)

    I suppose it would be "Love's Philosophy" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

    The fountains mingle with the river
    And the rivers with the Ocean,
    The winds of Heaven mix forever
    With a sweet emotion;
    Nothing in the world is single;
    All things by a law divine
    In one spirit meet and mingle.
    Why not I with thine? --

    See the mountains kiss high Heaven
    And the waves clasp one another;
    No sister-flower would be forgiven
    If it disdained its brother;
    And the sunlight clasps the earth
    And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
    What is all this sweet work worth
    If thou kiss not me?

    4. What is one thing you've always wanted to read, or wish you had more time to read?

    I've wanted to read the complete works of Plato or Bill Shakespeare, but haven't yet.

    5. What are you currently reading?

  • The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington
  • Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 by Joe Sacco
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology by Jurgen Moltmann
  • Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge.