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About that Fox News interview…

If you know a lot of leftists, as I do, chances are you’ve encountered a link to this interview of Reza Aslan by Lauren Green at some point in the past two days or so.  They see the interview as an example of the evil of Fox News.  They claim it illustrates the bias of the network, and that it illustrates how “smart” the author is and how he “totally pwns the interviewer’s assumptions.”

I watched the interview, and I encourage you to do the same, but my main reaction to their claims about it is to think:  Excuse me?  Did we even watch the same interview?  I believe neither the interviewer nor the guest came off particularly well in this exchange.

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Lauren Green comes across as someone who likely hasn’t read the book, but who has read many reviews of the book, and is trying to provoke a response from the author. Reza Aslan, though, comes across as the ultimate disingenuous academic who says, “I am just a historian, I have no agenda whatsoever.”  He keeps reiterating that he is an academic with a PhD, as though that is an adequate defense against bias.  Green could have done a more skillful job challenging his assumptions or his arguments; her questions only serve to make him defensive, and so the interview doesn’t appear to accomplish much for either party.

Nevertheless, I didn’t view the interview as a complete failure for Fox News.  Quite to the contrary, I thought it illustrated that there is more journalistic spirit alive at Fox News than at most of the mainstream press outlets who have interviewed the author or reported on the book.  Why do I say that?  Because, the other morning I had to endure this NPR interview with the same author of the same book, and I heard a lot of claims by Aslan about his book, and his beliefs, but no one challenged those claims or tried to interrogate Aslan’s motivations for writing the book that he wrote.  The NPR interview was so concerned with helping him make his points, that it could have just as easily come from the public relations office of his publisher.

Not surprisingly, the other day NPR’s website featured this story entitled “Reza Aslan Hearts NPR”: “Author and religious scholar Reza Aslan is one of those people who’s at NPR West so often that he blurs the line between guest and employee. We always joke with our regulars that they should have a punch card, and when it’s full, they get their own cubicle.”  Even less surprisingly, today NPR has this sympathetic story about the reaction on the left to the Fox News  interview.

When you compare NPR’s very sympathetic pieces helping Aslan promote both his book and his talking points, with Lauren Green’s somewhat awkward attempt to interrogate him, though, it’s pretty clear to me which “news” outlet is more interested in informing its viewers and letting them decide for themselves.   Green’s interview told us much more about Aslan than NPR’s pieces: it showed us something of his character, it introduced us to some of the controversies surrounding the book, and it raised the question of his worldview and its influence on his writing.

And as it turns out, there is a lot of reason for controversy, as Pamela Geller Robert Spencer points out in her his own detailed post about the controversy (hat tip: Pamela Geller).   Geller Spencer writes:

I don’t care about his scholarly credentials. Even if everything he had said about his degrees had been true, it would confer on his book no presumption of accuracy or truth. I am constantly assailed for lacking scholarly credentials, but as it happens, when it comes to writing about religion I have exactly the same credentials as Aslan, a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa, and an M.A. in Religious Studies. His other two degrees are in other fields.

But anyway, it doesn’t matter: there are plenty of fools with degrees, and plenty of geniuses without them. My work, and Aslan’s, stands or falls on its merits, not on the number of degrees we have. Aslan’s pulling rank on Lauren Green and starting to reel off (inaccurately) his degrees was a sign of insecurity: it implied that he didn’t think his book could stand on its merits, and had to be accepted because he had a lot of degrees. And indeed, his book doesn’t stand on its merits.

I encourage you to be sure to read Geller’s Spencer’s whole post.

To my mind, the reaction on the left tells us more about their fondness for credentials and their disdain for Fox News than anything else;  that the same people who view this interview as an instance of intolerable bias think nothing of the swill served up regularly by NPR and MSNBC should tell us all we need to know.

Living in the present in challenging times

Several of my Facebook friends like to post inspirational and thought-provoking quotes on a regular basis.  Two or three of them have recently posted a quote which has been attributed to Lao Tzu which reads:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.

As someone who has lately been bouncing back and forth between these states of mind, I can appreciate the essential wisdom of the quote.  Most of my feelings of depression lately have been spurred on by my regrets about things I wish I had done differently in my life, and so in that regard, they are an instance of dwelling in the past.  Most of my anxiety stems from my concerns about where our country is headed under its current leadership (or lack thereof), and my feelings of uncertainty or even paralysis as to what is or should be the best path for me to take from this point forward.  The more I think about it, the more overwhelming the many different options start to become.

Partly because of the circumstances which have fueled both my recent feelings of depression and of anxiety, I also have to wonder whether or not the “living in the present” endorsed by the quote is really so desirable after all.  When things are going well, yes, that sounds ideal, but isn’t there the risk of a sort of complacency which can result in self-indulgence, lack of ambition and disengagement?
I thought of these points and more yesterday when Glenn Reynolds linked to a post by Sarah Hoyt entitled “If You Don’t Work, You Die.”  In the post, Hoyt reflects on the importance of what she refers to as envy and striving for growth and life, which, to my mind suggests a certain resistance to complacency.  She reflects on an experiment in Denver in the 1970s with a guaranteed minimum income and the finding that a certain segment of the population was content to live on it and to stop striving to better their lives, and she speculates that it is partly an inherited trait which had value in the conservation of social energy.  The part of the post that fascinated me the most was when she described herself in the following terms:
Some of us are broken.  We were given both envy and high principles.  We can’t even contemplate bringing others down to level things, but instead we work madly to increase our status.  (No, it’s not how I think about it, but it’s probably what’s going on in the back of the monkey brain.)  Most of humanity however is functional.  Give them enough to eat, and a place to live, and no matter how unvaried the diet and how small/terrible the place, most people will stay put.
It seems to me that she has hit on something crucial there because although I’m often tempted to focus on being content with things the way are, every so often something happens to jar me from that state of mind, either by making me feel depressed or anxious or by throwing me off balance completely with some new dream or hope.
I’d like to write more about the disruptive power and potential value of such dreams, but for the time being, I’d like to pose a question for our readers.   When we live in difficult and challenging times, how can one try to remain “in the present” without falling into complacency or without becoming disengaged from the sorts of issues and problems that threaten to make existence even more trying and difficult?

Jesus, on tax collectors

With apologies to the GayPatriot blog’s many Jewish friends and to its many “secular conservative” atheist/agnostic friends.

My only comment on the following material shall be this summary: It seems that Jesus took note of who was a tax collector and was willing to forgive them, on the premise that they were sinners who obviously needed to repent of their many crimes against their fellow man.

Matthew 9:9-13, English Standard Version (ESV), Jesus Calls Matthew

9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus[a] reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 15:1-32, English Standard Version (ESV), The Parable of the Lost Sheep (more…)

George Washington’s First Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

We Interrupt Our Petty Lives for this Announcement:

Ever since I first heard of Yousef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian pastor held captive in that horrible subnormal nation by its rulers for the crime of apostasy, I’ve had as my homepage at work the American Center for Law and Justice website which had been counting the days of his incarceration.

That count has ended.

While I was out of town this weekend with my partner and away from the news, Pastor Nadarkhani was released by the court that had originally sentenced him to death. The charge of apostasy has been reduced to that of evangelizing, and his punishment to time served.

There is so much to say that if I did would look like gift-horse material. For now, let’s all just say a prayer of thanksgiving that he has been delivered from these savages and is currently back in the embrace of his family.

Let’s also further pray that now that he’s out of jail he will find safety. All to often in places like Iran, prisoners of conscience are released from official bondage only to be torn apart by the mobs that populate such backward countries.

If you’d like to know more about Pastor Nadarkhani and his trials, check out the link to the ACLJ above.

-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from HHQ)

Biden’s Offensive Comments Offer Clear Picture Of His Priorities

Posted by ColoradoPatriot at 10:28 am - August 24, 2011.
Filed under: Biden Watch,Big Government Follies,Faith,Liberals

Much hubbub over Vice President Biden’s latest foot-in-mouth buffoonery, this time delivered on the soil of our landlord. (When, btw, can we all agree he makes a bigger fool of himself and more often than Dan Quayle ever could have even tried to?)

If you haven’t seen his despicable (and, no I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe his words) comments, hold your nose and press play:

Of course the most disgusting and blatantly offensive thing he says is that he “fully understand[s]” and is “not second-guessing” the brutal and vile and perverted One Child Policy and its ancillary of forced abortions and sterilizations in that Communist (and, by government dictate, godless) nation.

But as with his boss, look beyond his characteristically poorly chosen extemporaneous words and you’ll see a philosophy that drives him and the rest of the Left:

It isn’t that, as a practicing Roman Catholic, the Vice President finds abortion to be an abomination. It isn’t that he sees forced sterilizations and abortions to be an egregious trampling of civil rights. It isn’t that such policies and disrespect for innocent human life leads to a coarsening of society and therefore an overall degradation of its moral quality. Nah, in the face of those factors, Mr. Biden is not “second-guessing”.

The criticism of the policy Biden musters—and hopes, from which “maybe we can learn together”—is that they’re “in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people: Not sustainable.”

When faced with the evil of China’s One Child Policy, to people like Biden, the greatest flaw is that it won’t sustain a welfare state as he’d like to see it.

So much for rendering unto Caesar.

-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from HQ)

Happy Thanksgiving America!

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 9:34 am - November 25, 2010.
Filed under: American History,Dogs,Faith

From the PatriotPooches to you…. (though it is hard to compete with The Gipper!)

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

A New Year’s Reflection

As many of you know, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at sundown, so as I write these words, some of our readers are already celebrating the holiday.

Every year, as the Jewish High Holy Days approach, I seek to engage in T’shuvah, the word literally means return (as if we return to the right path), where I examine my deeds in the past year and try to improve upon them for the year upcoming. To facilitate this process, I try to read S.Y. Agnon’s Days of Awe: A Treasury of Jewish Wisdom for Reflection, Repentance, and Renewal on the High Holy Days.

I have no clue how many times I’ve read this book since I first discovered it eighteen years ago. I find when I read it, it spurs me to reflection and helps me prepare for the Holy Days and the New Year.

This year, I pulled the book down from my shelves in the now-ending Hebrew month of Ellul, a month when, to paraphrase something I wrote two years ago at this time, we reflect, looking back on the previous year, considering our faults and resolve to improve ourselves. I didn’t get to it until just a few days ago.

I hesitated picking it up, fearing it would too much of a chore to get through, as I wanted to read the whole book over the Yamin Noraim, these Days of Awe, when we turn our thoughts to our Maker and our own improvement.

Once I started reading, however, it was not as much a chore as I initially feared. I found myself coming alive as I read, awakened to both the traditions of my people and the circumstances of my life, circumstances which helped explain (but not excuse) my own faults.  I realized (yet again) I was not the first to stray, not the first to take good things for granted.

I began to understand what it meant to be “humble and contrite.” Humble, that I am human and weak, not always able to live up to my duties and ideals. I’m not so proud to believe that I can always be perfect. Contrite, in that I take responsibility for my failures (even when I understand them) and seek to do better new year.

But, the real lesson I gleaned from this whole experience. While we may feel it is painful to consider our own imperfections, sometimes when we do, we discover the pain is lessened when we can see a path to improving upon them and find within ourselves the resolve to take the first step.

I’ve engaged in this process before. So, I ask another question: why do we hesitate sometimes to do those things which help us improve ourselves spiritually? And make us feel more engaged with our lives. And more alive.

May you, our readers, be inscribed and sealed for a Good Year.