Donate

Don’t Declare Secularism Victorious, Yet

April 3 2017

Responding to Rod Dreher’s recent book The Benedict Option, which discusses the argument that conservative Christians—having lost the culture war and become a minority—should retreat into insular communities, Peter Berger writes:

What Dreher is saying is . . . this: don’t exaggerate. Are Christians being persecuted in America? Not really. Yes, there are regrettable power plays—as when the Obama administration wanted to force Catholic hospitals to cover contraception in the health plans offered their employees, or to threaten the livelihood of Evangelical photographers or caterers unless they are willing to serve same-sex weddings. . . . But a comparison with real persecution of Christians—massacres, enslavement, forced conversion, or prosecutions for “blasphemy” by Islamist forces in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, or West Africa—shows that there is really no comparison at all.

It is much too early to give up on the strong religious forces in American society—a still-intact and influential Evangelical community, also an intact and vital presence of the Catholic Church (now invigorated by the growing influence of Latinos), also the less-visible but nevertheless powerful presence of religious [traditions] from South and East Asia. It is, I think, too early to assess the significance of the Islamic presence.

It is also easy to exaggerate the importance of secularism in America. This is not Europe, though a sector of the American intelligentsia has been “Europeanized.” The values of sexual life have certainly been secularized, once one moves outside the relatively closed worlds of conservative religion (including its Jewish sector). The trend of sexual mores has clearly been in the direction of ever-increasing liberality. Especially young people strongly resent any “authoritarian” claims to put limits, any limits, on the ethics of autonomous “consenting adults.” . . . Any threat (real or imagined) to this [sense of] entitlement will be fiercely resented. [So] don’t figure on a neo-Puritan sexual revolution.

Read more at American Interest

More about: American Religion, Christianity, Middle East Christianity, Religion & Holidays, Secularism, Sexual revolution

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy