Monday, April 24, 2017

On A Lighter Note


The Real Inhumanity Of The "Refugee" Crisis

It is generally understood that if you are pro-"refugee" and mass immigration, you are a good person. If you question this policy, you are a bad person. It really is often that blunt and lacking any sort of critical thought. You aren't allowed to question climate change, you aren't allowed to question "transgenderism", you are not allowed to question "Black Lives Matter" and you certainly are not allowed to question mass immigration.

However, thanks to endless name-calling and general intellectual dishonesty from the opinion making elites in this country, I am even less concerned about being labelled than ever and I am a lot more interested in the truth regardless of the implications. I have been concerned for a long time about the impact of massive numbers of "refugees" on the receiving countries and I am increasingly convinced that the entire refugee/immigrant system is inhumane to precisely the people it is supposedly helping.

When you look at what is going on in Europe, it appears that the vast majority of "refugees", who are often more properly classed economic migrants, end up perpetually unemployed and reliant on the state. No attempt is made to assimilate to the culture. In Germany it is reported that a tiny fraction of a percentage of these newcomers are gainfully employed. Most of them are wards of the state and a lot of them dwell in perpetuity in "refugee camps", camps where they are given shelter and food paid for by the generosity of the host country but somehow they still are equivalent to concentration camps according to Jorge Bergoglio, aka "Pope Francis". I don't doubt that there are many of these "refugees" and others who are perfectly content to move to Europe and leech off the workers there for the rest of their lives but I have to assume an awful lot of them want to work and be productive. The reality is that a lack of assimilation leads to ghettoizing of many groups that move to Europe and this leads to resentment and radicalization. Often the terror attacks, rioting and other criminal activity that results from this situation stems from second generation immigrants. It would make a lot more sense and be a lot more humane to find ways to allow people to stay in their home country rather than moving somewhere else where they don't fit in and don't seem to want to fit in. 

Meanwhile the journey to Europe is incredibly dangerous although it is very lucrative for criminals. As the Guardian notes: "This year is proving the deadliest yet for the central Mediterranean migration route, a billion-dollar industry controlled by criminal networks." in a piece titled: Refugee women and children 'beaten, raped and starved in Libyan hellholes'. The criminal networks that facilitate the movement of "refugees" takes full advantage of the vulnerability of those fleeing their homelands.
Women and children making the dangerous journey to Europe to flee poverty and conflicts in Africa are being beaten, raped and starved in “living hellholes” in Libya, the United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, has said.
Children are being sexually abused, coerced into prostitution and work, and held to ransom for months in squalid, overcrowded detention centres, as they flee war and poverty in Africa to undertake one of the most dangerous journeys in the world to Europe, the agency warned in a new report.
Last year, more than 181,000 refugees and migrants, including more than 25,800 unaccompanied children, arrived in Italy via the central Mediterranean smuggling route, through Libya. Thousands of people died on the way.
The Ron Paul Liberty points out, in light of the renewed push to overthrow the Syrian government, that the last time we removed a dictator we created a worse situation, The Last Country We “Liberated” from an “Evil” Dictator Is Now Openly Trading Slaves. Gaddafi was a bad guy but at least we could contain him. Now Libya has slave markets. What do you suppose will happen in Syria if Assad is removed?

This is not restricted to Africans travelling to Europe. It happens on our own southern border. Smugglers who traffic Mexicans and others into America often rape women and kill others, leaving bodies and "rape trees" in their wake. As Breitbart reports in 5 Border Horrors Establishment Media Mostly Ignore, young women being travelling to America illegally are fully expecting to be raped on the way:
Women and young girls from Central America are routinely given birth control or morning after pills by their mothers in anticipation of the likely sexual assaults that will occur on their illicit journey to the United States.
These females are often raped immediately upon making it to their first stop once they arrive in a Mexican stash house from Guatemala. They then are shipped to the U.S.-Mexico border, usually to Reynosa, Mexico, immediately south of McAllen, Texas. In the process of making it from the first stash house to the second, the women and young girls are often sexually assaulted or raped again by the smuggler–or group of smugglers–taking them between the two locations. The sexual assaults and rapes then often happen again in the second Mexican stash house of their journey.
They are then trickled into the U.S. across the porous border and brought to a third stash house in a U.S. border town, usually in or near McAllen, Texas. They are often sexually assaulted or raped again by the operator of the stash house, if they are deemed attractive by the criminals operating the clandestine facility. They are stockpiled until the cartel wants to send a large load of narcotics across the Rio Grande. The cartel then sends a large load of humans across in one area and then a drug load across in another.
Why do women and young children make this perilous trip where thousands regularly die and many more are sexually assaulted or sold into slavery by human traffickers? Because they are promised a better life, a promise that often seems to be based on a lie. 

By promising a better life, which looks a lot like living in camps or ghettos, Europe (and America to a lesser extent) is providing the bait for these criminals to exploit refugees and migrants while at the same time gobbling up humanitarian funds. A report by Breitbart, Report: Who Is Profiting from the Multi-$Billion Business of European Immigration?, suggests that there are many groups who profit from the "refugee" crisis and have a financial incentive to keep the flood of refugees flowing. Another report looks at the role of "Christian" aid groups that make big money from the "refugee" resettlement business, Unholy Alliance:Christian Charities Profit from $1 Billion Fed Program to Resettle Refugees, 40Percent Muslim. Even the BBC just ran a story about charities working with smugglers to keep the refugees (and refugee aid dollars) flowing: Italy migrant crisis: Charities 'colluding' with smugglers.
An Italian prosecutor says he has evidence some of the charities saving migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are colluding with people-smugglers.
Carmelo Zuccaro told La Stampa (in Italian) phone calls were being made from Libya to rescue vessels..
...
"We have evidence that there are direct contacts between certain NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and people traffickers in Libya," Mr Zuccaro is quoted as saying in La Stampa.
He said that telephone calls were being made from Libya and rescuers were shining lamps to direct smugglers' vessels and turning off transponders so boats could not be traced.

How humanitarian of them, of course thousands are killed, raped and sold into sex slavery....It is always my policy to follow the money trail because sadly the end of the trail is where the truth is all too often to be found.

I don't have all the answers here but I do have some suggestions.

1. Stop dangling the promise of a fresh start and a comfortable social safety net for people who refuse to assimilate and overwhelmingly end up unemployed and resentful. Most Western nations are deeply in debt and facing near-future financial crises that cannot be ignored and certainly cannot be compounded by adding benefit recipients.

2. End foreign meddling that creates the conditions that lead to refugees. If we don't want to see refugees flooding Europe and America, we should stop toppling governments in our paternalistic effort to force freedom on people who don't want it. From creating a new Jewish homeland in the Middle East to orchestrating the Shah of Iran to Iraq to the Arab Spring to Syria, our foreign policy in the Middle East has without exception made things worse. 

3. Focus humanitarian aid on keeping people in their homeland instead of taking a perilous journey to a new nation. As is often the case, it appears to me that the West, motivated in part by genuine altruism, is actually getting fleeced in the name of charity and is in many ways causing more human misery rather than alleviating it. It isn't charitable to destabilize nations and then destabilize other nations with the refugees from the original country.

It is our duty as Christians to help those in need but that doesn't mean putting on a blindfold and throwing money at problems. We need sober decision making coupled with compassion or we end up making things worse.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Benedict Option: Initial Response

I finally got the Benedict Option from the library and read a little of it over the weekend. First impression? Underwhelmed. For all of the hype it thus far has been a pretty forgettable work. The book itself is pretty small, I think Rod Dreher wrote more words endlessly hyping and then angrily defending the Benedict Option (BenOp) than he put into the book. Since the release it seems like he is spending more time defending the book from alleged detractors than writing anything of substance. I find it irritating because his non-stop self-promotion has largely overwhelmed the rest of the American Conservative writers which is a shame because they often are writing things that no one else is. I often go to the webpage of the TAC and click on every non-Dreher story just to help promote interesting stuff that isn't shilling for a book.

I am admittedly reading the BenOp as a hostile reviewer. I have written some pretty strongly worded criticisms of the BenOp as inadequate based on Dreher's endless previews and also critiqued Dreher himself (see: The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question and The Anabaptist Option > The Benedict Option for starters). My number one concern with the BenOp is that it purports to point out the path forward for Christians while being written by someone who is from what I can tell either not a Christian, based on his adherence to Eastern Orthodoxy, or if he is one in spite of being EO, he is pretty Biblically illiterate. Someone who praises the virtue of mormonism and isn't sure if Muslims and Christians worship the same God or not, and hasn't even thought about it, really isn't someone in a position to be a pathfinder for the church.

For example, early on in the BenOp (page 23) Dreher claims to have identified five critical events that "stripped" the West of her "ancestral faith": the loss of a sense that God and creation were "connected" in the 14th century, "The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century", the 18th century Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the 60's era Sexual Revolution. Yes, Dreher lumps the Reformation in with the Sexual Revolution as being to blame for the loss of the West's "ancestral faith".

For Protestants, the Reformation was not about undoing the false "unity" of the church, it was about restoring the Gospel. That is infinitely more important than preserving "religious unity", a farcical concept for anyone familiar with church history. A unity based on a lie is not Biblical unity. His casual slander of the Reformation as akin to the Sexual Revolution is par for the course thus far, Dreher seems more interested in preserving traditional religious forms and morals than he is in preserving the truth.

My basic position on Rod Dreher is that he is a sometimes useful commenter on culture from a nominally "Christian" conservative religious viewpoint. As a leader in the church he is largely disqualified for a bunch of reasons, primarily because he doesn't understand the church at all and doesn't seem to understand or be very interested in the Gospel. So why read him at all? Simply because the book has sold a lot of copies and is bandied about as a critical resource for the church including some breathless fawning about it being the most important book this year/decade/century. I am going to keep pluggin away at it and posting updates as I go.

Friday, April 14, 2017

War As Sport

Hey did you hear the awesome news! America dropped a MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) on some "jihadis" yesterday! Woohoo! We killed 36 of them! Awesome! How do we know they were "ISIS militants" and that 36 were killed with no civilian casualties? Well, cuz the Afghan government and our own government says so and if you can't trust the Afghan government, who can you trust! Besides who cares, we killed 36 people and used this totally awesome bomb! USA! USA! USA!

The way our media, especially Fox News which is the only mainstream news site I visit with any regularity, covers military operations like they are sporting events is kind of sickening. Instead of baseball box scores we get number of missiles launched, tonnage of bombs dropped, disposition of forces deployed and of course the best stat of all, the number of bad guys killed. If it doesn't exist already, can we be far off from guys having Fantasy Military Forces leagues? "Dude I picked up the MOAB late in our fantasy draft as a sleeper pick, I wasn't sure we would use it but thanks to Trump I won my league this week!"

I understand the geo-political and theological need for the state to wage war on occasion. I don't believe in a national policy of pacifism but I also don't believe in a personal policy that accepts at face value what any government tells me without question. None of that makes it any less troubling when Caesar uses the power of the sword to snuff out the life of someone else, supposedly for my own good, especially when the one being killed is going to spend an eternity in hell. Yes, I know that as far as I know there is no exception to the belief that someone who associates with ISIS is an enemy of the West, specifically the U.S. and would gladly kill me and my family in as gruesome a way as possible for a variety of reasons including my nationality and my faith. So they have it coming I suppose.

Today is rather arbitrarily declared to be "Good Friday" in America and while I am disinterested in a liturgical calendar dreamed up centuries ago, I am reminded this evening that if the Bible teaches us anything about that Friday it is that while these alleged "ISIS militants" probably deserved to get a 21,000 pound dropped on their heads and then spend eternity in hell, so do I. The Bible tells me that where it counts, in my heart, I am a murderer, an adulterer and a thief. My rightful eternal destiny is absolutely no different from an "ISIS militant" or Pol Pot or Adolf Hitler. It is only because of the sovereign grace of God that I am redeemed through faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ. That is something each of needs to remember because it is easy to start to think that we are somehow different. We aren't.

Living in a fallen world in nations led by fallen men means that the sword gets used and when it does, people die. We should recognize that as a theological necessity but we certainly shouldn't cheer and high five each other when anyone is killed, even when the one getting killed is allegedly a terrorist and the ones doing the killing have an American flag on their uniform. This isn't a game, it is not a sporting event calling for foam "We're #1" fingers. People die and people kill and even those who survive are often scarred. I have no sympathy for ISIS terrorists or anyone else who oppresses others. I am fully in support of having a reasonable military level for national defense. I would simply ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to not get caught up in the patriotic furor and the urge to be cheerleaders for the military adventures of our government.

Book Review: The Campus Rape Frenzy

"College education is perhaps the only product in the United States for which consumers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars without any clear sense of what they are purchasing"

- The Campus Rape Frenzy, pg. 267

It is not news that the state of the campus in America is generally reprehensible. From "safe spaces" where "adults" play with toys and watch videos of puppies to hide from opinions they find objectionable to the increasing willingness to squelch objectionable speech using violence, such as at Berkeley in response to Milo Yiannopoulos and at Middlebury during an attempted talk by Charles Murray, and of course the decades long nearly unanimous left-wing political indoctrination that passes for teaching, America's former point of pride, our college and university system, is an intellectual wasteland. What is worse, more and more young adults are being force-fed into the system to support the erroneous narrative that the only path to an even modestly successful life in modern America requires a four-year degree, even though many college bound high school seniors are not really benefited much by four years of additional school and the resulting tens of thousands in debt.

Into the fray comes a new book on a very specific but also very telling topic, the assault on the foundational legal principle of due process in campus sexual assault disciplinary tribunals. Written by K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr, The Campus Rape Frenzy is an often uncomfortable but absolutely vital look at how the hysteria over "rape culture" and the use of bogus statistics has created a nationwide system of kangaroo courts where (overwhelmingly male) students are subjected to a deeply biased process in which they are essentially presumed guilty of sexual assault based on a risible definition of the term.

Johnson and Taylor make their case with a seemingly endless stream of discomforting case studies where, at the very least, male students have been subjected to a tribunal where the deck is stacked against them, tribunals that are secretive, unfair and seemingly designed more to advance a political narrative about "rape culture" than discover the truth. As the authors point out, people at the highest levels of academia and government, including Senators and even the former President of the United States, throw out statistics like the one-in-five college women will be sexually assaulted. If that were true, it would mean that college campuses are far more dangerous for women than even our most troubled inner-cities and in fact are more akin to war-torn third world nations than the cozy liberal cocoons that they really resemble. The authors do a very credible dismantling of that oft repeated statistic and then tie that statistic and other narratives into the lack of due process on our campuses.

What is at least as troubling about the lack of due process facing the primarily male students in our universities and colleges when it comes to sexual assault is that like the "hate crime" hoaxes that repeatedly crop up in our media's breathless reporting only to be debunked a day later and never mentioned again, the labelling of every ill-advised sexual encounter, often fueled for both parties by alcohol, is that it diminishes the impact of actual rape and sexual assault. Sex crimes are awful and need to be treated seriously as crimes, not opportunities to grandstand about "rape culture". From this book and from plain common sense it is obvious that crimes should be handled by the police, not by untrained, agenda-driven demagogues on campus.

If the case made in The Campus Rape Frenzy is accurate, it should give pause to the parents of any college-bound young man. If the book is wrong and our college campuses are actually awash in sexual assault, it would suggest that the parents of any college-bound young woman reconsider letting her go away to school. Anyone who is concerned about basic legal protection, fairness, academic freedom and the rule of law should read The Campus Rape and ask why we are subsidizing institutions that flaunt basic legal protections and specifically target male students.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Adventures In Assuming The Church With Aaron!

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you regularly attend religious events. And if you don't buy in without question you clearly are stupid and hate Me"

(John 13:35, Institutional Church Version)

I don't spend much time these days making the case for a less ritualized, less institutionalized form of church. I have said about all I can say and we really haven't found many people, especially not locally, who are interested in a serious revamping of the institutional model. It is sort of like Reformed theology, I still subscribe to "Calvinism" without hesitation but trying to convince people who are already predisposed to reject Reformed theology is often a waste of time and just gets people upset. You have to read the Bible and find the doctrines of grace there for yourself, you aren't likely to get there by reading my blog. So while I still write about the church, I do so more for my own reasons and to work out things I am thinking about in public. I would love to interact with people who are sincerely looking for what the Bible teaches about the church but I assume most people who read my blog on those questions already are largely in agreement with me in principle, if not in practice. 

Having said that...

It is common to see posts from the usual suspects telling us that loving Jesus means "loving the church", "church" in this conversation exclusively defined as our traditional institutional model that is clergy-centric, event-focused, ritualistic and largely a spectator sport for most "lay" Christians. Places like The Gospel Coalition (which seems to have taken a rather abrupt turn toward "social justice" of late) and 9 Marks have been running with the "How can you say you love Jesus but not the church?" narrative for a while but today I ran across an article that goes from that narrative to the "If you don't love traditional religious practices you are stupid and despise the church!". No, really. The impetus for the article is the recent Barna Group report on people who profess to be Christians while not attending "Christian" religious services. It is an interesting report as long as you recognize the inherent limitations in a survey like that. As you can imagine, for a lot of people dependent on the institutional church model in professional clerical positions and at seminaries training those religious professionals, the idea of people living out the Christian life while not "going to church" is dangerous and subversive. 

Enter into the fray Aaron Denlinger, writing at reformation21. I don't really know anything about Aaron other than his post linked to by Tim Challies, My Jesus, I Love You; Your Bride I Despise!. From this post I can't say I am terribly impressed. Aaron spends most of his post insulting people who don't show up to church sufficiently as stupid liberals who "never" read the Bible. Those are not my words, they are actually what  he says. As is often the case with rants against people who are not on board the institutional church train, Aaron generally assumes the church. By "assuming the church" I mean generally taking for granted what our Western traditions have taught about the church. This is especially ironic given that we are in the year of the 500th anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses and that Aaron is writing for a webpage called "reformation21". If Luther had assumed the church as we are supposed to do so today, he wouldn't have questioned things like the papacy and indulgences. "How can you say you love Jesus but don't recognize His Vicar?!" would scream the blogs in 1517 if there were blogs back then.

Aaron lumps together two distinct groups. There are cultural "Christians" in America who click the "Christian" box on surveys to indicate their religious affiliation even though they don't particularly care about Christianity. Ironically an awful lot of "churches"that Aaron conflates with "The Church" are full of these people. On the other hand there are a lot of actual regenerate, born-again, Scripture-reading, Jesus-loving Christians who don't attend weekly religious services. For Aaron, that is tantamount to despising the Church:
Last week the Barna Group informed us that a whopping ten percent of America's population "love Jesus but not the church." Lack of "love" for the church, for Barna's purposes, is essentially measured by lack of attendance at religious services. Few of those self-identifying with this group would profess contempt for the church. Some, to be sure, do have an admitted bone to pick with the church, but most, it seems, simply can't be bothered with her. But on the principle that neglect is really a rather potent form of contempt, I think we might define these individuals collectively as professed Jesus-lovers but church-despisers.
Aaron doesn't actually know these people and makes no attempt to interact with their arguments but nevertheless feels qualified to declare that they are unconsciously "church-despisers". Granted, Barna's survey and the results are a pretty broad brush but if you can't distinguish between questioning traditional church practices that look an awful lot like modifications of Roman ceremonies and an unconscious despising of the church, you probably shouldn't comment.
The really remarkable thing about this segment of our population is that, at least according to Barna's editor-in-chief Roxanne Stone, they "still believe in Scripture." To be sure, the numbers reveal they rarely read Scripture. I'm not sure how convincing or compelling one's "belief" in Scripture can actually be labeled if the one in question never reads the Bible. Presumably the conviction that Scripture is, say, God-breathed and profitable for doctrine and praxis would inspire one (no pun intended) to pick it up occasionally. Still, we're told that these individuals "believe in Scripture," and yet feel no apparent compulsion to follow the rather obvious biblical injunctions to assemble and participate in those rituals that Jesus ordered his assembled followers to perform. 
Again, using a survey of around 1200 people asking pretty broad questions to formulate a narrative of despising the church is inherently problematic. The survey does show that of those who were surveyed that "Love Jesus But Not The Church", a category from Barna that is inherently flawed because of the imprecise definition of "The Church", Scripture reading is not high on their list. Only 26% of those survey report that Scripture reading is a priority. On the other hand I have met a ton of every-Sunday-attending Christians who would affirm that Scripture reading is a priority that are woefully ignorant of what those Scriptures actually teach and really, what self-professing Evangelical is going to admit that they don't read the Scriptures very often? What is really interesting is his last sentence in this paragraph (emphasis added): "Still, we're told that these individuals "believe in Scripture," and yet feel no apparent compulsion to follow the rather obvious biblical injunctions to assemble and participate in those rituals that Jesus ordered his assembled followers to perform." Which "rituals" are those? Well we don't know because Aaron doesn't bother to tell us. I assume he means things like breaking bread and prayer and teaching and fellowship, the "Big Four" of Acts 2:42. What is obvious is that Aaron either hasn't considered how this could happen outside of a scheduled Sunday morning service or he has and rejected the idea in spite of the lack of any evidence that the apostolic church had meetings that resemble a traditional church service. Let me state clearly that you can have the four elements of the gathered church in a traditional, institutional setting although I don't think it is the best or most biblically faithful model but I would affirm just as strongly that you can have those elements outside of a traditional church setting as well and often in a more faithful manner. Then there is this:
Forgive my bluntness, but claiming to love Jesus while wanting nothing to do with the church is just stupid.
Well that is intellectually about one step removed from "people who don't participate in culturally determined religious services are just poopheads". Bluntness I can forgive, willful misrepresentation I cannot. His following sentences I have no issue with on their face:
If the "Jesus" we're talking about is the God-man whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension is described and defined for us by the inspired writings of those he commissioned to disciple the nations, then the "church" we're talking about must be the entity described and defined for us by those same writings. The "church," according to those writings, is Christ's bride, whom he loves, whom he nourishes, whom he died for (see Eph. 5:25-32). As the hymnist puts it: "From Heaven he came and sought her, to be his holy bride. With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died."
To that I say a hearty "Amen!". However yet again we see him assuming that "The Church" must and may only mean "Institutional religious services officiated by a properly ordained member of the clergy". I have no issue with Jesus and the Church as described and defined in the Scriptures, in fact I go out of my way to affirm what the Scriptures actually teach about Jesus and about the church. I would suspect that if Aaron and I were having coffee and talking about things like the hypostatic union and justification by faith and soteriology, we would get along swimmingly but if the conversation strayed to ecclesiology, specifically in practice, someone might spill their coffee. I have observed this weird inconsistency among Reformed types before. They are so careful and faithful when it comes to predestination and adoption and perseverance of the saints but when it comes to how the church gathers there seem to be some sort of ecclesiastical blinders that get worn. Compare the faithful and rigorous exegesis of passages on questions of Reformed theology proper (i.e. the Five Points) to ecclesiastical practice and the clumsy and often defensive way that church practices are assumed and it seems like you are talking to two different theologians.

Aaron continues on with the common analogy of someone who says they like him but don't care for spending time with his wife, an analogy that is just silly. Jesus is not my buddy that I like to watch football and drink beer with. He is my King and my Savior. His Bride is not a wet blanket killjoy that you don't want around because she nags him during the game, His Bride is all of the redeemed today, tomorrow and throughout the ages. Like so many analogies it falls apart on any serious examination.

His last paragraph deserves some examination, not because it raises any valid points but because it is so arrogant and totally lacking in self-awareness (emphasis mine):
It's difficult to know how seriously to take the claim that one might love Jesus but despise his bride and body. Part of me wants to merely role my eyes rather than seriously engage such a sentiment, much as I prefer to counter liberal efforts to strip Christianity of its supernatural elements with a pronounced yawn rather than serious argument. But the prevalence of those who believe they can have Jesus without his bride/body suggests, perhaps, the need for some more intelligent response. Maybe a first step in such might be recognizing the part that evangelical Protestantism itself has played in cultivating the naïve assumption that Christ can be had without his bride/body. Are we, dare I say it, largely to blame for such stupidity, by virtue (for instance) of the dismally weak ecclesiology and sacramentology we have championed in the history of American evangelicalism? Or perhaps by virtue of the tolerance we have shown to parachurch organizations that too often subvert rather than support the church by presuming to play the part the church is divinely appointed to play in the lives of believers? Who needs Christ's bride around when you can have his less obnoxious distant cousin?
See, what we need is more church! And get rid of those awful "parachurch" organizations!

Not to be petty but it is "roll" not "role" when it comes to your eyes and second it is ironic that he claims to "seriously engage" the topic when he mostly seems content to knock over strawmen and hurl insults. What is really amazing is that I think he really believes that his essay "seriously engages" the idea of people being faithful Christians while not "faithfully" attending "church". His essay is chock full of dismissive quips and outright insults but what you will look for in vain is any attempt by Aaron Denlinger to actually engage in the arguments, made from Scripture, by Christians who have looked with a critical eye at our traditional religious practices and searched the Scriptures to see if these things are true and realized that our religious subculture is not found in Scripture. Perhaps his intelligent response is forthcoming. 

You can disagree with critics of traditional religious practices, that is fine, but to call them stupid, label them "liberal" and suggest that anyone who questions institutional church practices doesn't read the Bible is what is truly ignorant. Go to the pages of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship and read their articles and then tell me that they are not engaged with Scripture. Read my far less eloquent writings. What you might find is that instead of assuming the church based centuries of traditions handed down by people with a vested interest in perpetuating those traditions, an actual search of the Scriptures will at the very least raise serious questions about our practices that cannot be dismissed by calling those questions stupid.

As I wrote on Facebook when first sharing this post, the whole "How can you love Jesus but hate His bride!?" narrative used to smear anyone who dares question institutionalized religious practices is the height of foolishness. It really epitomizes the way that discourse in the church mirrors the world where people substitute emotionalized rhetoric for meaningful interaction, a more genteel but just as anti-intellectual of a response to people questioning the dominant paradigm as that which we see on college campuses. I can respect people who defend traditional church practices from Scripture and even from a sense of pragmatism. What I cannot respect is someone who seems content to let misrepresentation and insults serve as a response to legitimate questions.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Is Learnin' So 'spensive?

One of the most popular nonsensical notions of the new "progressive" movement is the idea that having "free" public "education" from K-12, a system that has worked spectacularly to churn out millions of young adults who are largely incapable of critical thought but are perfectly primed for low skill service industry jobs and a lifetime of being mindless consumers, it follows that we should expand this "free" system and let everyone also have universal "free" college. After all, a college degree is a human right and it is just so darn expensive! I need it and someone else should pay for it!

The reality is somewhat different. There are not a lot of non-technical jobs that really require a college degree. I don't mean that the job description doesn't say that a degree is required, just that nothing you learn in a non-technical major is going to really help you be successful in a job in the same way that being reliable, working hard and having pertinent experience will.

The other issue is that "education" at the college level is very much like "education" at the secondary schooling level, specifically that the hyper-inflation of cost has very little to do with the cost of actual teaching and is instead largely attributable to the massive increase in non-teaching bureaucracy. For example, look at the chart below from the CATO institute that I pulled from this article from FEE (Foundation for Economic Education), The Failure of Public Schooling in One Chart.


What the chart shows is that the cost of "education" for K-12 has skyrocketed since 1970 and a lot of those costs come from increased staffing levels while at the same time enrollment has stayed fairly flat and test results have likewise stayed flat or declined. In other words we are spending a lot more on staff for the same number of students and getting very little return on that investment. If Wal-Mart doubled the number of employees but their sales remained stagnant, the CEO and most of the rest of the executive team would be out of work in a flash. So where is this money going? Not to teachers primarily. We hear a lot of yammering from the "education" establishment about how poor teachers are underpaid but then the same people keep pushing school districts to hire more non-teaching staff positions. Here is another quote from the FEE article:
Since World War II, inflation-adjusted spending per student in American public schools has increased by 663 percent. Where did all of that money go? One place it went was to hire more personnel. Between 1950 and 2009, American public schools experienced a 96 percent increase in student population. During that time, public schools increased their staff by 386 percent – four times the increase in students. The number of teachers increased by 252 percent, over 2.5 times the increase in students. The number of administrators and other staff increased by over seven times the increase in students. …This staffing surge still exists today. From 1992 to 2014 – the most recent year of available data – American public schools saw a 19 percent increase in their student population and a staffing increase of 36 percent. This decades-long staffing surge in American public schools has been tremendously expensive for taxpayers, yet it has not led to significant changes in student achievement. For example, public school national math scores have been flat (and national reading scores declined slightly) for 17-year-olds since 1992.
The key number here is that the number of administrative positions has increased seven times the increase in students. In other words, administrative jobs have exploded far ahead of the increase in students. We are spending more and more on education and the appetite for more spending is insatiable but the spending is often going into non-teaching positions and students are not performing any better. There are a lot of other politically incorrect factors here but I will leave that for another day.

The same thing is happening at colleges and universities. I have just finished up a staggering book on the move to eliminate due process on college campuses for disciplinary issues related to sexual assault, The Campus Rape Frenzy. A full review is forthcoming but I also found a lot of interesting information that pertains to this post. Here is one fun fact. At Harvard University, the premier school in America according to our popular culture, there are around 90 staff members at the Title IX office and the "Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response". With around 21,000 students at Harvard, undergraduate and graduate, that means that there is one of those administrative staff for every 233 students specifically hired to somehow prevent sexual assault and/or gender discrimination. In fact, according to the Wikipedia entry, Harvard has 4,671 staff in total or one for every 4.5 students. No wonder it is so expensive!

Here is another one that comes from the same book. After a kerfuffle over a staff member at Yale suggesting that people freaking out over Halloween costumes might be a little over the top and counter-productive, a kerfuffle that resulted in two staffers being essentially forced out of their jobs after a highly charged confrontation, Yale decided to step in. Not to chastise the anti-free expression protesters. Of course not! No, Yale decided to bribe placate the protesters by spending more money on staff "diversity" (from the Washington Post, the entire article is equal parts hilarious and deeply disturbing):
This week the university announced a $50 million, five-year initiative to enhance the diversity of the faculty.
"Enhance the diversity" which I have to assume is code for "hire more non-White faculty" because everyone knows that you can't teach unless you have the same skin color as your students. The extra $50 million must be necessary because teaching at Yale is insufficiently prestigious itself. As the authors of The Campus Rape Frenzy pointed out, that $50,000,000 is enough to reduce the tuition of every undergraduate by $9,000 (pg. 263) but instead it is being spent on hiring what amounts to race-based hiring that makes "diversity" a key attribute of the hiring process. So much for concern over the rising cost of education and student loan debt. See this article fro FIRE for more details on this case: Yale University: Protesters at Yale Threaten Free Speech, Demand Apologies and Resignations from Faculty Members Over Halloween Email.

Make no mistake. "Education" is super expensive and only getting more expensive but what we are getting for all of that increased spending is pretty suspect. In a lot of cases we are getting bloated staff, token diversity hires, and extra administrators to address problems that are very likely overblown and in return we are getting poorly educated students and especially at the post-secondary level we are seeing an entire generation of what are supposed to be our best and brightest who are incapable of critical thinking, unwilling to engage with ideas that make them uncomfortable, often  who respond to challenges to their indoctrination with calls for suppression of free speech and increasingly even with violence and in general are completely unprepared for life off campus.

We don't need "free" college to fix America's ills. I think that a lot of our ills are indirectly related to our insistence that we send every high school student to college in the first place. What we do need is a serious review of our "education" system from top to bottom because right now we are spending way too much and getting way too little in return. What is the goal and purpose of our education spending? Is it just to give us somewhere to warehouse kids until they are old enough to get a job? Is it to indoctrinate them in a specific political philosophy? Or is it to teach them to think and to learn, to become lifelong self-educators who are able to think independently? If the last one is the goal, we are doing a poor job of it.

The big problem in our education system is not who pays for it but what we spend our money on and what we get in return. Until we get a handle on that, the topic of who pays for schooling is irrelevant.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Curious Case Of Russell Moore

The firestorm of controversy over the on-going employment of Russell Moore has sort of died down. After a media blitz from some of the major media outlets like the Washington Post, NPR, Fox News, the Atlantic and many others, a quiet meeting was held and peace seems to have been made. Make no mistake, the same media outlets that reported on this internal issue with the SBC with such "concern" are not interested in the long-term health of the Southern Baptist Convention and in fact would like nothing more than to see the SBC and every other Biblically faithful manifestation of the Christian faith exterminated. They don't care if Russell Moore gets fired or not, they are just attracted to a controversy like a vulture is drawn to carrion.

I wanted to look at another angle to this story that I thought was interesting. The generally accepted narrative is that principled Russell Moore took a noble stance against the prevailing opinion and was a prophetic voice speaking truth to power in marked contrast to crude and vulgar Donald Trump and his cartoonish supporters in the "Religious Right".

What if it is not quite that cut-and-dried?

While individual Southern Baptists and SBC churches provide all of the funding for the various ministries of the SBC, they exert very little direct control over the ministries they fund. So who did appoint Dr. Moore as the new head of the ERLC? The board of trustees of the ERLC did.
Russell D. Moore has been elected as the next president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. 

The ERLC's board of trustees approved Moore, currently dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a special, called meeting Tuesday (March 26) at a Nashville hotel.
So who is on this board? Well the current chairman of the ERLC board is one Ken Barbic (same article, emphasis mine)....
In addition to Creamer, other ERLC trustees on the presidential search committee -- all members of Southern Baptist churches -- were Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Barbic, a lobbyist with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan.; Ray Newman, executive director of Georgia Citizens Action Project in Atlanta; and Bernard Snowden, family life pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bowie, Md. ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles, who appointed the search committee, was an ex officio member. Piles is pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.
He was not chairman at the time Moore was appointed as far as I can tell.

What does Ken Barbic do for the Western Growers Association? His title is "Sr. Director, Federal Government Affairs". That sounds innocuous enough but what it means is he is basically a lobbyist as noted in the story above. Back in the day I thought about working for lobbying groups and all of the muckety mucks had "government affairs" in their job title. Like a lot of lobbyists he used to work in Congress where he made contacts in government that he then in turned cashed in by becoming a lobbyist.

Now that is his business and it is legal so no harm there. But what exactly is the "Western Growers Association"? Well they represent produce growers in the West. Again, perfectly legal and proper. Virtually every industry has a lobbying arm to represent their interests before the government.

One of their signature issues is immigration. They sponsor workshops on topics like “What to Do during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Visit”. So who benefits from cheap (and often illegal) immigrants to work fields tending and harvesting produce which is very difficult and labor intensive? That's right, people who grow produce and that is who makes up the Western Growers Association. Again, nothing necessarily wrong here.

What else do we know about the ERLC? Another initiative they are involved in is the so-called Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), a somewhat amorphous group. What is their deal? From their webpage we read: "The Evangelical Immigration Table is a broad coalition of evangelical organizations and leaders advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values." Well that seems innocent enough, right? Maybe not. The EIT is sort of a clearinghouse for different groups involved in "immigration reform". It is kind of a hard group to get a handle on as it is apparently not even a registered political entity or non-profit, which seems to allow it to be kind of opaque. What we do know is this. EIT is deeply tied to the National Immigration Forum (NIF), another immigration "reform" advocacy group. OK, so who is NIF and why does it matter? The NIF receives funds from the Open Societies Institute. That group is a front for George Soros, the same George Soros who once said: "The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.". The same George Soros who made a billion dollars off of currency speculation. The same George Soros who is widely considered to be an "open borders" advocate. This is the same George Soros who is a billionaire atheist that has no interest in seeing the Kingdom of God advance. Another member of the EIT is Sojourners, the far left group headed by Jim Wallis. Shocker, Sojourners has also received funding from George Soros even though Jim Wallis initially denied it and called Marvin Olasky a liar. Then he backpedaled and said that they did get money from Soros but it was a long time ago. Ironically Wallis said: "So, no, we don't receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That's where it comes from." before a staffer admitted that yes they actually did get money from Soros but of course they were not beholden to him. That was in 2010. In 2011 Olasky reported that Wallis admitted that they took another $150,000 from Soros. Again he claimed to not be beholden to him but if you think that getting nearly half a million in donations (that we know of) from a far-left figure doesn't impact the decision making of an organization, you are naive. George Soros doesn't give money to conservative groups after all.

So what? That is a lot of information about a lot of groups you might never have heard from with acronyms and vague sounding names. What does that have to do with Russell Moore? Maybe nothing but then again maybe a lot. At a minimum it looks like ERLC under Dr. Moore is unequally yoked with a number of far left groups including a man, George Soros, who is using his billions to try to overturn abortion laws in Europe, starting with Ireland and in doing so the ERLC seems to be working at odds with what the rank and file SBC member probably thinks they are doing.

Please hear this. I am not saying that George Soros is the marionette pulling the strings of Russell Moore. What I am saying is that it seems to me that ERLC is making some poor decisions and is involved in some questionable partnerships and that based on information like the role of George Soros behind the scenes of EIT (and Soros is no dummy, he knows that direct involvement would cause a stink so he hides his influence behind layers of innocuous sounding organizations) and the oversight of Moore being carried out by a lobbyist for a group that relies on ample, cheap immigrant labor, the lines are getting blurry between the stated mission of a group, the ERLC, that is supposed to be a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, and being a quasi-lobbying organization that is pushing for pet projects of Russell Moore in partnership, however shadowy, with George Soros and Jim Wallis, that I would be willing to bet the majority of Southern Baptists would oppose.

The signature policy issue of Donald Trump is immigration reform. On a number of fronts it appears that Russell Moore, his boss and his co-laborers in different groups, are politically opposed to Trump's plans. At the very minimum it raises in my mind questions about the real source of Moore's opposition to Trump. I have little doubt that many of the objections Moore has raised are legitimate issues but you cannot help but wonder just how much of his vitriolic rhetoric is fueled by pragmatic concerns. At a very minimum, for the sake of transparency and to ease the minds of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Russell Moore should speak up directly about the questions I and many others have raised. Sometimes silence only serves to fuel speculation and right now all of the talk is asking questions that could and should raise serious red flags for many in the SBC. Perhaps some of those associations should be raising red flags for Dr. Moore as well. It can be easy to get caught up in our work and not see the shoals that are dead ahead.

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Dangers Of Theological In-Breeding

I have written before about the problem of theological in-breeding, of Christians growing up in a tradition and never really questioning the theological assumptions of that tradition. During our journey as Christians we have been part of a bunch of theological traditions, and ironically almost never in a tradition that would match up very closely with my own deeply held beliefs. We have been involved in Southern Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Mennonite, Church of Christ, Plymouth Brethren and house church traditions and without exception I observed the impact of theological in-breeding. What I mean by that term is people from a tradition, often especially the people most invested and engaged in the church, who have had very little interaction and engagement with other traditions in the church. This might be less prevalent among Reformed types as so many of them came from other traditions but it still exists there, manifested in reading all of the same books and going to all of the same conferences to listen to all of the same guys who write the books they read.


As an example, in a small fellowship we used to be part of in another town where I took great pains to not get into the Calvinism/Arminianism debates but one guy we used to fellowship with got wind of my Reformed leanings and decided to give me a CD from a teacher who was well-known in their circles that purported to disprove Calvinism. It was a ludicrous series of caricatures and eisegesis, just laughably bad , I actually did a line by line rebuttal of this "teacher" on my blog but ended up deleting it after he and I had a private email conversation. What I took from the incident was that here was a guy who was a nice fellow and a pretty decent student of the Bible in the areas that his tradition emphasized but he had apparently never really taken the time to interact with and consider Reformed theology. He just knew that his tradition didn't believe in it and therefore he didn't either. Given the very extensive and rich theological tradition of the Reformed, it seems odd to me to not really ever consider it beyond a clumsy smiting of strawmen.

I really try to at least give a fair hearing to theological positions I don't agree with, although I worry that I might be doing so mostly to give me more material to prove them wrong. Even if that is part of my motivation, it still is healthy to at least study people I disagree with to make sure I am on solid Biblical footing. If I had just gone with the caricature of Anabaptism you get from The White Horse Inn guys I would have missed a great deal of wonderful stuff. I still think that Michael Horton and company are right a lot more than they are wrong but I also realize you need to consider that they might miss the mark on some issues and investigate for yourself. 

With a few notable exceptions, most conservative theological traditions have some valuable lessons to teach the broader church. Not all are equally valuable of course but because each has a different focus, each also usually emphasizes different areas and often those different areas are blind-spots for other traditions. It is good to know your own tradition and why you worship where and how you do but it is also important that you take some time to learn about and understand other traditions. I am not saying that if you read John Calvin and Menno Simons you will always or often agree but you might just learn something new about our mutual faith and that is always valuable. Examining ideas you are unfamiliar with isn't dangerous but theological in-breeding often is. 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

My Second Favorite Place In The World

I have written in the past about Black Lake, Michigan where my family has vacationed or lived for pretty much my entire life. It is the most precious place in the world for me. A close second is Rockwell Springs Trout Club in Castalia, Ohio. It is a pretty unusual place, sort of like a golf course with streams and pools stocked with trout instead of fairways and greens. It is a private club that sits in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the typical rural Ohio countryside of endless corn fields. While we haven't been there for a long time, it was somewhere I went often as a kid. At first I was too young to fly fish (the only kind of fishing permitted at Rockwell) so it was somewhere very quiet where I spent the day reading. Later as I got older I was able to fish so it was a day to spend outside, catching fish before having a nice dinner while our fish were magically cleaned and packaged up for us to take home. It is a beautiful place to spend the day.

Yesterday after a very long time we were able to visit Rockwell Springs because my parents were in town and my wife and I spent the day with them with no kids, just a nice relaxing day. It was kind of chilly and gloomy in the morning but turned into a nice day. I didn't fish and didn't even take my fly rod but I kind of wish I had now. Anyway I took a couple of pictures and videos from Rockwell.











Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Protect Livestock But Not Children

In the state of California where up to a third of residents are in favor of secession because of the election of Donald Trump, two pro-life activists have been charged with multiple felonies. Their crime? Recording representatives of arch-abortionist Planned Parenthood discussing the viability of selling the component body parts of children they murdered. The recordings were done, as far as I can tell, in public venues.

When I read about it this morning, my first reaction was that this reeks of political correctness and hypocrisy. People on the left love it, absolutely love it, when people deceive employers to get jobs in private farm/meat facilities and take video of animals being allegedly abused. The videos of alleged animal abuse are done under false pretenses, on private property and are clearly edited to only show the most egregious examples. That is OK though because it helps advance the narrative. Videos shot of Mitt Romney giving a private speech or other conservative groups are likewise OK because they are on the right side of the political spectrum. Filming people selling human parts? That must be punished or at least the threat of punishment must appear to keep people from asking inconvenient questions. I am not the only one who noticed this, David French at the often useless National Review put out a piece that makes the same point, California Shamelessly Persecutes Pro-Life Journalists. Here is a sample:

California’s case not only fails on the merits, it reeks of selective prosecution. There is no shortage of examples of concealed-camera videos in California exposing scandalous behavior (the Federalist’s Sean Davis has been tweeting them since the indictment), often in the arena of animal rights. In 2014, a group called Mercy for Animals released an undercover video that “allegedly show[ed] widespread animal abuse and cruelty at one of California’s largest duck farms.” Authorities reportedly responded to the video — by investigating the farm.
In 2015, the same group released yet another undercover video, this time exposing “apparent mistreatment of chickens at a Foster Farms poultry slaughterhouse in Fresno and at three poultry farms in Fresno County.” Once again, authorities responded — once again by investigating the farm.
But the lives and deaths of chickens and ducks rate higher than the lives and deaths of human babies in the womb, so the Center for Medical Progress triggered an entirely different law-enforcement reaction. Pro-life journalists must be prosecuted.

That is so obviously true that only someone with their head buried in the sand up to their knees would not see it. That doesn't matter unfortunately because no matter how many hoax hate crimes are exposed or falsely labelled "Muslim bans" generate protests or whatever, the truth is irrelevant to far too many people and all that matters is pushing their agenda, even when the victims of their agenda are the most vulnerable human beings among us.

Whatever your opinion of using deceit and hidden films to expose wrong-doing, you have to recognize that there is rampant hypocrisy in this prosecution of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt and especially when you consider that the charges amount to potentially 15 felonies. You can also be sure that if found guilty, the courts in California will impose the harshest possible sentence to send the message: you don't mess with the butchers at Planned Parenthood.

When your worldview sees one action when taken to "protect" livestock raised for food as being OK and even noble but sees the same action, and a less intrusive one, being done to protect unborn children as being a felony worthy crime, your worldview is exposed as irredeemable evil. Evil is a word we shy away from in our culture but there is no other word that suffices for those who approve of, engage in and profit from selling the human remains resulting from the willful aborting of an otherwise viable human life. It is evil and no amount of "nuance" or word-games will change what it is.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rod Dreher And His Muslim "Brother"

Rod Dreher, the author of the book many are breathlessly calling the most important book this decade and doing so in complete seriousness, The Benedict Option, has spent a lot of time over the last year or so pushing his book as the only possible way forward for the church. At the same time and more so as reviews started coming in he has also lashed out, in increasingly strident language, against  those who were insufficiently impressed with his book. I am going to read it once it becomes available from our library, if only to interact with it as it is so widely cited, but I am deeply unconvinced that Rod has the right prescription for the church.

Anyway, I wasn't really planning on writing more about the BenOp until I had the chance to read it but it turns out that I kind of feel like I need to point something out he just wrote over the weekend. The title of the article is sort of innocuous: A Muslim Reads The Benedict Option  and the content is largely inoffensive until you get past the part that the Muslim wrote and read Rod's haughty, belligerent and yet very, very telling comments at the end. Here they are:
How is it that my Muslim brother Kamran understands The Benedict Option better than some Christian reviewers?
How is it that I suspect I have more in common with him on the subject of holiness and faithful living than with a lot of Americans who call themselves Christian but who seem to be well assimilated to the secular, consumerist order?
Whatever the answers, I’m so grateful to him for this letter, and for the possibilities it signals of religious collaboration across lines of faith.
My Muslim brother. Assuming that Rod and Kamran Hashim are not blood relatives and it seems clear that Rod is not using the word "brother" in the sense of a universal brotherhood of mankind, what exactly is the source of the alleged "brotherhood" between a Muslim and a "Christian"? This is the comment that I left on the article, it is awaiting moderation which makes me suspect it will never make it on the webpage.
Your Muslim "brother". The term brother, apart from actual blood relatives, carries a great deal of theological meaning for Christians. It invokes a sense of unity in the family of God. Any Muslim who actually believes his faith is by definition not a brother of anyone who is an actual Christian because their religion denies the divinity of Christ. I am sure you know this which makes me wonder why you would refer to an unbeliever and blasphemer as your "brother" other than his glowing praise of your book?
A Muslim doesn't not recognize Jesus as the Christ. As such he denies not only Christ but the Father who sent Him (John 5:23). In no respect is a Muslim, even a really nice and devout and moral one, my brother. This is where Rod has gone completely off the rails. A Muslim or Mormon or Jew that shares my political viewpoint and is a moral, "holy" person is not my brother in any sense. An actual regenerate believer in Christ who is not as morally upright and personally holy as he ought to be, just as I am not, is my brother. I am not one to shy away from calling out the church, starting in my own home, for being too cozy with the world but that doesn't mean that I stand arm in arm with a Muslim blasphemer while pointing an accusing finger at my brothers in Christ and rail against them "Why can't you Christians be more like this Muslim!?".

What is really on display here is that we see yet again that Rod Dreher, for all his eloquent writing and his book deals, doesn't really understand Christianity at all. This is not surprising, he was formerly a Roman Catholic and is now Greek Orthodox so he is deeply immersed in aberrant theological traditions and he frequently mentions that he doesn't understand evangelicalism, or as I like to call it "Christianity". What it does mean is that anyone who is a Christian that relies on or too heavily encourages others to rely on The Benedict Option as the way forward for the church should keep in mind that there is rarely a good reason for the church to take advice from someone outside of the church. As I wrote in a prior post on the BenOp, The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question:
As Christians we need to be very careful that when we read someone like Dreher, and I intend to once the book is available at our library, that we do so understanding that he is a fellow American, a conservative, a thinker and a devoutly religious individual deserving of no small amount of respect but he is not our brother
That may seem harsh but it is simply the truth.

From what I can tell, Rod's entire relationship with this guy, Kamran Hashim, who in a likelihood is a nice fella, is based on a letter Rod got from him about The Benedict OptionIf Rod truly thinks that a Muslim is his brother, based apparently on some shared moral convictions and the Muslim's glowing review of his book gleaned from a letter, then it is just as clear that Rod is not my brother and that Rod doesn't understand much about Christianity, about the church or about the Bible. He is hardly alone in this but not many people who are as clueless as he is about these questions is given so much praise and such heartfelt recommendation as an expert by so many Christians. Someone who doesn't understand why a Muslim is not and cannot be the brother of a Christian has no business presuming to speak on behalf of the entire church, a church he is apparently not part of and hasn't a clue about. 

If you read The Benedict Option, I recommend you read it through the same lens I will: it is a noteworthy book about religion and politics in America but it is not a book written for Christians by a Christian.