Boinkie's Blog


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The real culture war

D'Souza's book argues that the obscenities and immorality pushed by western cultures into more conservative societies are partly causing backlash among ordinary Muslims, leading to some sympathy for more radical forms of Islam.

Well, in a year where Sundance festival celbrated both child rape and bestiality, it's hard to disagree. Many average American parents also consider the culture toxic...I mean, when a million people home school (and many others send kids to church schools, or wish they could do so), it should cause one to question what is going on.

The culture war is not about culture, you know. The entire "tipping point" of the culture war is sex: It's about the sexual revolution. Is sex recreational, and is our playing with sexual freedom leading to freedom or the destruction of the family? And if families implode, what happens to our future? Especially what happens to vulnerable women, and children, and the elderly?

The London Times has an interview with Hirsi Ali, one of my heroes, who has revolted against the strict ethics and laws of her native Somalian Islam. She is right to bring up these things in Europe, who often naively ignores the village puritan aspect of Islam.

Yet, if Hirsi still lived in Somalia, where the only way for women to support themself is to marry and fit into the strict family system, such a revolt would be lethal. You see, for poor women who have less education and itelligence than Hirsi, her alternative is not available. They can escape their family only by work, and too often the work means prostitution, or a lonely poorly paying job at a factory or as a housemaid where their employers often prey on them for sexual favors. And, of course, for women outside the protection of a family, a pregnancy or an illness or old age means destitution and loneliness, or worse.

This is why many in Africa and Asia resent NGO's whose condom/safe sex message as part of their Family planning and HIV prevention is resented: knowing that the implied message of these campaigns, that sex outside of marriage is okay, leads to the destruction of not only their religion and culture but of the wellbeing of their families.

Sexual freedom in Alabama might just mean you would be happier in San Francisco; but in Uganda or the Philippines or Indonesia the result is not freedom but freedom of the powerful to exploit poor youth. Indeed, much of the opposition to homosexuals by Anglican African bishops has more to do with forced pedophilia by the powerful (see the history of the Ugandan Martyrs) than with quiet gays who are faithful to their partners asking to be married. Yet I have yet to see an article that is aware of this.

This is what is rarely discussed in the discussion of Islam vs the West: a sensitivity that what is good in Islam and why it is good. We need to build on what is common in Islam and in traditional Christianity and other religions without destroying the real differences between them: the importance of family and community, the need for sacrificing one's own desires to promote the common good, a strict sense of right and wrong, honesty in our daily lives, a work ethic that is compatible with these things, and a sexual fidelity that leads to strong family ties.

Even Muslim requests that seem to irritate the right wing, --insisting that their daughters wear traditional clothing in public, have days off for religious holidays, receive special diets in school cafeterias, prayer rooms in public spaces, and more modest hospital gowns-- are things that smaller Christian groups and Catholics have fought for in the US for years. Cafeterias serving fish on Friday, allowing nuns teaching in public school to wear habits, letting Jewish pupils take off for the day of Atonement and exempting Jehovah Witnesses from the pledge for alligence are just a few examples of how Americans tolerate religion. If such religious groups joined together on what they have in common, as Peter Kreeft suggests, the result would be not the loss of Western civilization but a strengthening of it as a tolerant society that allows families some control over their own lives.

All this is complicated by globalization and urbanization. As people move to urban areas, there is a vacuum of religion, in that the religion of the villages no longer works. In the Philippines and South America, the result is a huge increase in Evangelical Christianity. But what will be the future of modern, urban Islam? Historically, it has been a tolerant Islam that, like one still sees in India,Malaysia, or Indonesia.

But the bad news is that the alternative might not be the hoped for "reformation" of Islam, but a revival of Sharia law to govern lives. When things are chaotic, people prefer some rules to try to control the chaos to a freedom that allows evildoers to reign free. This puritanical revival is being pushed by Saudi oil money that funds of radical Mosques in many countries. The result is an Islam that promtes the fear of God (or Allah) into people, making innocent pleasures evil, stressing hatred of the infidel, and forcing women into a cultural straitjacket that even Mohamed did not require of his wives, who ran businesses and fought with him in his wars.

At the same time, there is an increasing intolerance of Catholicism and more conservative Protestantism in the UK, the European Union, and among American elites...who seem to think mega churches (many of which are smaller than the average Catholic parish in Chicago) are the norm for evangelical Christians...and doesn't seem to know the difference between Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and Baptist, and that ignores or deliberately misstates the subtle utterances of conservative Christian intellectuals such as John Paul II or Benedict or even D'Souza.

Ironically, the acid tongued Spengler agrees. He points out (echoing Benedict XVI), artists who fill the world with ugliness because their vocation is to "shock" merely leads to cultures that celebrate ugliness in all spheres of life. And a culture that mirrors "The Lord of the Flies" (in having art galleries touting dead animals as "art") is indeed in danger of losing their capacity to recognize beauty.

As Pope Benedict pointed out, a Western culture that ignores beauty, is intolerant to God, rejects logic in the name of feelings, and denies the existence of truth is truly in danger of losing it's own self. The problem may not be so much a loss of courage by western civilization but a loss of what is really important in life by many of the western elite, and a strange apathy to be willing to try to save it.

That, not the confrontation with radical forms of Islam, is the real culture war that we are in danger of losing in the West.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More Carmelite mp3

In the past, I went to meetings of a secular Carmelite group, but the mysticism was always over my head. Luckily my group was not OCD but the less mystical group, and we stressed spiritual childhood and the lifestyle of Nazareth.

Mysticism, furgedaboutit.
Offering up cleaning pots (or suturing drunks) Yup that I can do.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


mp3 download available....

Monday, January 22, 2007

Myamar and religious persecution

full report HERE.

As a Pinoy I don't know much about this, but am posting the report as a headsup.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Let's hear it for The Boy

Most people have heard of El Nino, when the Pacific Ocean tides are warm and the weather is stormy.

But most discussions of El Nino merely translate it as "Boy". or "the boy". A typical explanation is found HERE:
El Nino is first noticed along the South American coast around Christmas (hence the origin from Peruvian fishermen of its Spanish name ("the child").

Well, no, it's not "the child", but The Child. For El Nino is the Christ Child, and variations of the beloved celebration of Jesus as a young boy is embedded in folk Catholicism in Spanish, Latin American, and the Philippines. LINK

So today after Mass, the children were blessed, the statue of the Christ child was dressed up in his robe and crown, and....hmmm...something new to me. Men dressed in black, with black faces and feathers, beating a drum. What's up? I asked my husband.

It was some Visayans dressed in their traditional AtiAtihan costumes joining in the fiesta.

A typical snobbish American description of such celebrations can be found HERE:
Notice the condescending superior attitude toward both Catholics and Filipinos. But as a doctor, I have been quite a few places, and know that understanding the ideas behind customs lets you understand how people feel and think.

So let's go beyond the snobbery and see the meaning behind that smiling statue of the little boy you see in the back of the local SariSari shop.

You find him in offices and shops here, a chubby child of about six, often dressed by families in jeans or a tee shirt with a hat. People here love children, and the thought that Jesus was a child is a blessing on all children. But the meaning has a more subversive element few Americans seem to notice, for unlike the "prosperity" and self help gospels of the upper classes that come from the western elites, El Nino is a sly way of remembering that the meek, not the successful, will inherit the earth.

El Nino is celebrated here but it is not a major fiesta. The big one is in Panay
LINK (a sympathetic telling of the story of the Ati Atihan fiesta is told HERE).

The original festival was by people fleeing from another island who were welcomed by local tribes. Later, when the harvest failed in the highlands, the Ati, a people with dark skin and kinky hair, traveled to the plains and begged and were given food by lowlanders. And so the Ati sang and danced in thanks.

Even later, the Spanish grafted the El Nino cult to the fiesta. After all, isn't giving food to the poor a work approved by Christians?

Yes, the black faces are pre Christian, as is the alcohol. But the idea behind the fiesta is good. And if there is a slight fusion of the rain God with the Son of God, well, we'll leave that worry to the big shots and theologians.

Religion in the United States tends to be a rigid, sour thing, full of rules and shalt nots.

Here in the rural Philippines, it is embedded in daily life. So God is part of the family, and the stories of the saints are mixed up with pre Christian fiestas. Fiestas celebrate many ideas, and often the symbolism of the fiesta has deeper roots, enabling children to painlessly learn stories of their past and of right and wrong.

And the roots of El Nino go far beyond the Philippines.

The original story behind El Nino was that of Spanish men held in prison by the Moors because they refused to deny their religion. The families begged the Virgin to send bread to their loved ones, and a child indeed brought the men food and drink. No one could identify the boy, so the story is that the Virgin sent her own child with the supplies.

Like most folk tales, the story has historical echoes and cultural offshoots. To the Spanish, it still has echoes of Dhimmitude that most in the West have ignored. It tells the story of loving families, and the story that God loves the lowest person. But then the story expands, and it
becomes subversive: and so El Nino becomes the patron of all prisoners, and the patron of silverminers.

And so it was that when I first ran across the story of El Nino was while working in New Mexico. You see, our church had a small shrine in the back dedicated to those who died in the

The story can be found HERE
Some of the first American troops to see action in World War II were from the
New Mexico National Guard. They fought bravely on Corregidor, with its
underground tunnels and defenses. The Catholics remembered that the Santo Niño
de Atocha had long been considered a patron of all who were trapped or
of them made a vow that if they survived the war they would make a pilgrimage
from Santa Fe to Chimayo in Thanksgiving. At the end of the war two thousand
pilgrims, veterans of Corregidor, Bataan, and Japanese prison camps, together
with their families, walked the long and rough road from Santa Fe to Chimayo.
Some walked barefoot to the little adobe shrine.

So we have come full circle. From Spain to Mexico to the Philippines to the hills of New Mexico.

And do you know that veterans families still pilgrimage to Chimayo for the safe return of their soldiers.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

internet out

There have been no posts here since our internet in Asia was down due to an earthquake off of Taiwan that broke the overseas cable.

Frustrating to me, but after two weeks, I finally realized the Lord wanted me to spend less time on line and more time praying...