The Long View 2006-09-25: Evangelism at Home; Steyn No. 1; Papal Success; Gibson's Maya; NYT Ad


This list of influential conservatives from 2006 is mostly interesting now to see who has dropped into obscurity, and who has managed to cling to their livelihood for another decade. I'm not sure it has much to do with accuracy or prescience.

I've considered calculating a Brier score for John J. Reilly, since part of the objective of the Long View re-posting project is to retrospectively assess the predictions he made. Perhaps I'll do so.

Evangelism at Home; Steyn No. 1; Papal Success; Gibson's Maya; NYT Ad

Sunday morning National Public Radio broadcast a long, admiring story about Hispanic women in Union City, the town just north of me, who have converted to Islam. One got the impression that what the reporter was admiring was not so much the conversion to Islam as the rejection of Catholicism. In any case, the women got a chance to air their complaints against the Church. What they came down to is that nothing had ever been explained to them. They may well have had a point. In many places, Catholic religious education is high on sentiment and short on apologetics, or even systematic ethics. While I listened, I hoped that someone from the archdiocese was listening: the Church has to get its priorities straight.

At Mass an hour later, we were told that the regular homily would be replaced that morning by a plea for funds "for China." The person doing the pleading was a large Jesuit associated with a scholar-exchange program at Seton Hall. It was an interesting address. Many of the points he made about China echoed those of Gordon Chang. By and by, however, it became clear that what he was actually asking for was money to go and teach literature in China. He implied that he would be evangelizing, but doing so sotto voce.

A special collection was taken up after he spoke. I am one of the ushers, but I don't count the money; I think our Jesuit got between $50 and $100. After Mass, there was audible unhappiness about the incident. I am told that one particularly militant parishioner walked up to the Jesuit and rebuked him for declining to become a martyr. Had I been there, I might have put in a good word for the example of Mateo Ricci, but I think the Jesuit's solicitation might better have been addressed to one of the Pew foundations.

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With characteristic Canadian modesty, Mark Steyn recently directed his readers' attention to this list of conservative commentators, arranged in increasing level of influence:

30) Heather Mac Donald
29) Mac Johnson
28) Bill O'Reilly
27) Wesley Pruden
26) Mary Katharine Ham
25) Michael Graham
24) Michael Fumento
23) Dennis Prager
22) John Fund
21) Peggy Noonan
20) David Warren
19) Jeff Jacoby
18) James Lileks
17) Tony Blankley
16) Brendan Miniter
15) Michael Barone
14) Jack Kelly
13) Rich Lowry
12) David Limbaugh
11) Robert Novak
10) Michelle Malkin
9) Newt Gingrich
8) John Stossel
7) Walter Williams
6) Jonah Goldberg
5) Charles Krauthammer
4) Thomas Sowell
3) Victor Davis Hanson
2) Ann Coulter
1) Mark Steyn

The interesting question is not so much how these people got on the list as what other noted conservatives did to get excluded.

* * *

The Regensburg Lecture seems to be working:

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said on Monday that Christians and Muslims must reject violence, in an unprecedented meeting with Islamic envoys to defuse anger at his use of quotes saying their faith was spread by the sword...The Pope expressed his "esteem and profound respect" for members of the Islamic faith ...He did not specifically mention the quote that angered Muslims, saying the circumstances that made the meeting necessary "are well known". But he called for greater dialogue between the two religions..."Christians and Muslims must learn to work together ... in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence," the 79-year-old Pope said at the meeting in a frescoed hall of the papal summer palace.

Note what's happening here. Usually, when the pope or any other Western leader mentions Islam and tolerance, he is making a plea for tolerance for Muslims in the West. Here, however, Benedict denounced Muslim religious violence and demanded tolerance for Christian minorities in Muslim countries. He was then applauded by a roomful of Muslim ambassadors. Compare that to the outcome of the Cartoon Jihad.

Last week, Le Monde had some perceptive commentary about the real meaning of Regensburg, if we may judge this refraction through the Iran Press Service: which says that Pope’s Speech Again Demonstrated The Fragility of Islam. The IPS story dealt with a comment on September 19 by:

Henri Tincq, a leading religious analyst at the French influential daily “Le Monde” on Tuesday 19 September...

Mr. Tincq concludes in his interesting analytical article that one way or another, Islam does feel very fragile to react with such a violence every time it is tackled by outside, as seen by the case of Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and now the Pope and does Islam knows any other way to react every time it feels insulted?”

“The answer (to Mr. Tincq) is that contrary to other religions, Muslim religious leaders never allowed any discussion, any debate about this faith, but only to confirm Islam’s traditional line in every matter of life. There has been no reform in Islam and anyone who tried to challenge it, he was assassinated”, one Iranian religious expert pointed out.

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I look forward to Mel Gibson's new movie, despite Gibson's continuing insistence on, well, talking:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mel Gibson has returned to the spotlight to promote his upcoming movie "Apocalypto," and to criticize the war in Iraq, according to the Hollywood Reporter...In describing its portrait of a civilization in decline, Gibson said, "The precursors to a civilization that's going under are the same, time and time again," drawing parallels between the Mayan civilization on the brink of collapse and America's present situation. "What's human sacrifice," he asked, "if not sending guys off to Iraq for no reason?"

Actually, as I have been arguing with certain learned email correspondents, the collapse of the Classic Maya period with which Gibson deals should be understood as the end of the Culture era of Mezoamerican society, followed by the Civilized phase based in Yucatan and Central Mexico. The end of the Classic period seems to have had less to do with human sacrifice than with an appalling insistence on closure.

* * *

Here's an Unpaid Political Ad from The New York Times, which informs its readers that Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat:

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

So, a few weeks before an important Congressional election, we have unnamed people leaking fragments of a report to a newspaper that helped perpetrate the Wilson-Plame Hoax. The assessment in the Times headline might even be true, but the Times editors must be the last people in journalism who do not understand that their paper has zero credibility about anything to do with Iraq or the Bush Administration.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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