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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray Book Review

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity
Douglas Murray's New Book Will Make You Angry, or Angrier

If you enjoy gritting your teeth, balling your fists, and throwing objects across rooms, you'll just love Douglas Murray's latest, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity. Murray is the forty-year-old author of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam. A handsome, charismatic Oxford grad, Murray speaks with a plummy accent. He not only appears on mainstream media like the BBC, the BBC has actually apologized to him. While reading his books, I have to ask how he gets away with it.

In 2015, Murray wrote, "French Muslims were increasingly aligning themselves with Islamist values … It is no coincidence that France has the largest percentage of Muslims in its population of anywhere in western Europe. Wherever the concentration gets above a certain level (perhaps 20 per cent), consequences follow." Why is Murray allowed in the mainstream while heroes from Tommy Robinson to David Horowitz to Ayaan Hirsi Ali are sidelined to non-person status? Is it because Murray is gay, and therefore a beneficiary of the very privilege his latest book skewers? I don't know.

In The Madness of Crowds, Murray invites the reader to teeth-gnashing at various events and trends, all involving homosexuality, women, race, and transsexualism. He starts strong. The book's introduction is a fist shaken at the woke powers and principalities of political correctness. People nowadays are "irrational, feverish, herd-like, and simply unpleasant." This isn't just a rant, the intro promises. We must "see the causes" and "get to the root." What is that root? "All of our grand narratives [religion and politics] have collapsed." Life is now reduced to "getting rich" and "having whatever fun is on offer." A new religion has arisen. That religion is Marxist in its platform and advanced by new tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which are run by true believers.

This new religion atomizes and tribalizes society. Our most important characteristics are our race, sex, and sexual orientation. We are deemed worthy or worthless, we are attended to or rejected, based on these superficial characteristics. This religion offers no stable organizing principle. What was virtuous at one time is sinful at another. We must "organize along whichever system of justice emerges from the perpetually moving hierarchy … it is a system that is not just unworkable but dementing, making demands that are impossible towards ends that are unachievable."

We must live lies. For example, we must profess that a man is a woman. "As anyone who has lived under totalitarianism can attest, there is something demeaning and eventually soul-destroying about being expected to go along with claims you do not believe to be true."

Murray's goal in the face of this madness is to be a kind of mine-sweeper. He can't fix the whole kit and kaboodle, he acknowledges, but he hopes to "help clear some terrain across which afterwards other people may more safely pass." Exactly since Murray is one conservative who is allowed in mainstream media, he may very well be successful in this goal.

In his first chapter. devoted to homosexuality, Murray expresses exasperation at how often gay-themed stories are "crow-barred" into other media. Murray mentions the lack of fellow-feeling among what comedian Dave Chappelle calls "the alphabet people." Murray, just like Chappelle, mentions that gay men and lesbians "have almost nothing in common;" both are suspicious of bisexuals; and trans people present challenges so unique that some, including many lesbians, would like to disassociate from them.

Murray says that in the past, gay people wanted to be seen as like everyone else. Now, though, radicals want difference. People who identify as gay want to be accepted into society; people who identify as queer want to tear down society. Case in point: attacks on Bruce Bawer for pointing out, in his 1994 book, A Place at the Table, that some groups are self-defeating in their extremism. Bawer was denounced as a "piece of ----" and "a disgrace to the queer nation." "What queer nation?" Murray asks. Murray observes that dramatizations of sadomasochistic behavior in gay pride parades are "off-putting." Peter Thiel, a gay man who endorsed President Trump, was stripped of his gayness by many commentators. The authentic gay must be on the extreme left.

Again in his intro, Douglas promises that he will not be overwhelmed by the tsunami of a mad crowd, but rather he will rise above and provide root causes, thus, his second chapter on Marxism, especially as it manifests in the social sciences as taught on elite university campuses.

In the old, Marxist formulation, the capitalists were on the top, sucking up the wealth that would be better shared. Now, in the new pyramid that social justice warriors want to shatter, white males are on top, sucking up all available privilege, attention, and worth. White males must be brought low and their opposite numbers, trans Muslims, say, must be elevated.

Theorists like UC Berkeley Professor Judith Butler insist that gender is nothing but a "reiterated social performance," not the result of a "prior reality." In 1988, Prof. Peggy McIntosh gave the world "White Privilege," describing how all whites are much better off than any and all non-whites. One item on McIntosh's list: "I can buy band-aids that match my skin tone." Seriously? What color is this woman? And where may one purchase these magic band-aids? Another: "I can criticize my government." Yeah, Peggy, it's amazing how black people aren't allowed to criticize the government.

In 1985, Argentine-born Professor Ernesto Laclau advised roping persons who feel aggrieved about their lives into class struggle. Laclau was "explicitly setting out to try to find a new class of exploited person." Working class people had failed to recognize their exploitation. They "let down their theoreticians and had generally failed to follow the path of progress that had been laid out for them." Laclau described a plan to bring more people into Marxist revolution.

Laclau issued his call just four years before the Berlin Wall came down. Communism may have been exposed as the most murderous ideology in history, and a spectacular failure in living up to any of its promises, and so hated by its subjects that they rioted with joy when the wall holding them in was torn down. But some man somewhere was bummed because he faced ridicule for his desire to dress in women's clothing, and he and others similarly simmering in resentment could be radicalized and convinced that tearing down heterosexual white men elevated them.

In this new revolution, victimization was the coin of the realm. Women were victimized and must be believed if sexually assaulted. When a female, leftist scholar, NYU's Avital Ronell, sexually harassed her male graduate student, the very same scholars who argued for the new Revolution of the new oppressed supported the empowered scholar, rather than the serf grad student. I'm shocked, shocked! Judith Butler, one of Laclau's colleagues, co-signed a letter identifying Ronell as a special princess who must not be interfered with. Her "grace," her "keen wit," demanded that she be "accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation." Paging George Orwell, author of Animal Farm.

Murray closes his chapter on Marxism with levity, citing a series of hoax publications, including "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct," and "Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon." Scholars, real scholars, admirable scholars, published these articles to expose the excesses of woke culture in the Ivory Tower.

Another foundation of our current insanity, Murray reports, is tech. The tech titans are woke, and they crush anyone who speaks any taboo truth. Too, tech provides the means to spread social panics. Murray mentions, but does not dwell on, the January, 2019 cyber lynching of a group of schoolboys. The boys were Catholic, from the south, majority white, obviously male, wearing MAGA hats, and were marching for life. They were hated for all these reasons.

One Nathan Philips, self-identifying as a "Native American elder," approached the boys while banging a drum and chanting. Like wildfire, video of this encounter spread across the internet, accompanied with quite literal demands for the boys' grisly murder.

The tech titans are hypocrites. "Google's workforce is only 4 percent Hispanic and 2 percent African-American … Asians make up 35 percent of Google staff" though Asians make up 5 percent of the US population. And, as we all know, China don't play. Tech does what China tells tech to do.

Tech's selective un-personing is telling. Women have been banned from Twitter for stating that men are not women. Yesterday women were the oppressed victim, and gained status thereby. Today, men announcing themselves as women get to bully women, and indeed to make death threats against women. The victim status of men-as-women supersedes the victim status of women.

Murray reports the results of a series of Google image searches. Searching "European art," for example, is designed by Google to send out images of black people. Search "white men" and receive images with captions saying, "White men are bad." Da, da comrade.

Google and Facebook combined, Murray reports, employ at least 40,000 people whose job it is to "moderate content." Patreon employs a "Trust and Safety Team" to discern who is adequately woke enough to use that platform. What's that knock at the door? Never fear, it's the "Trust and Safety Team."

A personal note: recently I received notification that Facebook had deleted one of my posts, a post made in a small, private group I moderate myself. Facebook would not show the post to me, though I asked – I wanted to know what I had posted that broke Facebook rules. Facebook sent me this note, and I promise you this is really what it said, "Danusha, this is what you can do. You can remove Danusha from the group."

Murray opens his chapter on race with Martin Luther King dreaming that his children should "one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." I'll pause that the reader may weep.

"Skin color is everything," Murray reports. Murray unearths bizarre attacks on tall, handsome, white, rich actor Armie Hammer. Hammer starred as both of the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network and he was perfection in Call Me By Your Name. But, you know, he's white. And male. And heterosexual. And rich. So let's bash him on the internet. We should count our lucky stars that so far Zuckerberg, Brin, Dorsey, et al, have not yet figured out how to operate a guillotine through the internet.

For me the best part of Murray's race chapter is his no-holds-barred critique of 2015 MacArthur Genius Grand winner and grievance monger Ta-Nehisi Coates. I'm not going to describe that critique to you. I want you to read it for yourself, and shoot Murray an appreciative note afterwards.

One of the challenges I face as a Christian is that I often want to say, "Christ, or the Judeo-Christian tradition, offers the solution here," and I hesitate to do so, because I know people hate being proselytized. Murray is an atheist, but in a couple of places in his book he acknowledges that Christ, or the tenets of the Judeo-Christian tradition, does indeed offer the solution here. Towards the end of his chapter on race, Murray says, "Equality in the eyes of God is a core tenet of the Christian tradition." I'd add that equality in the eyes of God is central to Judaism as well, enshrined in Genesis and Talmudic interpretations of Genesis.

We live in secular societies, and we can't impose that religious tenet. Without that foundational belief, though, we flounder. It's a belief found in perhaps the single most famous American sentence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Without that, we fall prey to hierarchies and tribalism that could destroy the fabric of our society.

Murray invokes Christianity in a chapter entitled "Forgiveness." Tech-driven woke lynch mobs are allergic to forgiveness. Every time a name arises in popular culture someone combs through the new celebrity's past and finds evidence of sin. Witness a story Murray does not cover. 24-year-old Carson King held up a sign asking for beer money at a sporting event in September, 2019. He gained fame and used that fame to raise millions of dollars for a children's hospital. Reporter Aaron Calvin, of the Des Moines Register, dug up posts made when King was 16 years old. King's sponsors dropped him.

Christianity is big on the concept of forgiveness, and that concept, along with equality in the eyes of God, is a social lubricant that allows us to get along with each other. Without it, society becomes pricklier. "We have created a world in which forgiveness has become almost impossible … a world where nobody knows who is allowed to give alleviation for offense but where everybody has a reputational incentive to take it and run with it. A world in which one of the greatest exertions of power is constantly exerted – the power to stand in judgment over, and potentially ruin, the life of another human being … this is one of the surest ways imaginable to embed every tribal difference that already exists." Murray writes. Nietzsche predicted that once we gave up on God, we'd flounder, because we'd still feel guilt over our own sins and anger at others, and we'd have no route to reconciliation.

Murray cites transsexualism as the current ultimate stalking horse for the woke. Transsexuals constitute a tiny percentage of the population. There is debate, and inconclusive statistics, about the best way to treat gender dysphoria. Not so long ago, leftists themselves felt perfectly comfortable making jokes about gender dysphoria. In the past few years, suddenly and unpredictably, that males could be denied entry to women's rape crisis centers, prisons, bathrooms, waxing salons and changing rooms has suddenly been held aloft as proof that Western Civilization is hopelessly oppressive and must be dismantled brick by filthy brick. Anyone who questioned this suddenly emerging deep truth was publicly cyber-lynched.

Murray opens with a sobering anecdote. Nancy Verhelst, Murry tells us, was a Belgian girl with a distant, unloving mother who preferred her three brothers to Nancy. Nancy got surgery meant to turn her into a man, Nathan. This surgery left her feeling depressed. "I do not want to be a monster," she said. She then requested state-assisted suicide, and the government complied, killing Nathan / Nancy.

Murray could have ended the chapter right there, but he goes on. Children are encouraged by virtue signaling adults and greedy doctors to take puberty-blocking drugs that damage their bodies for life, and to undergo drastic surgery before they are out of their teens. As a brief visit to YouTube can attest, quite a few of these children later regret this path, and wish they could have their natural bodies back. If their parents object, the parents can be alienated from the children by the state, or by intrusive and dogmatic health care professionals and school administrators. These professionals might not be true believers themselves, but they are terrified of being fingered and un-personed as "transphobes."

"I felt like I was on a conveyor belt," says one young man who regrets that this agenda was forced on him. He has to wear a restrictive undergarment to hide his permanently femininized breasts, even though he jumped off the belt. Dr Johanna Olson-Kennedy, who touts gender reassignment for underage children, famously said, "Here's the thing about chest surgery [surgical removal of a girl's breasts]. If you want breasts at a later point in your life, you can go and get them."

Think you've hit the bottom of the barrel? How naïve. Dr Johanna Olson-Kennedy's husband, Aydin Olson-Kennedy, is a trans man. Mr. Olson-Kennedy raised funds to remove the breasts of a Down's syndrome girl.

As much as I value Murray and this book, I have reservations. Murray says that The Bell Curve was never criticized on a factual basis. In fact it was, by world class scientists. Murray writes about women from a great remove; I don't get the sense that he's ever met or talked to a feminist. No, not all of us think that expressing hatred toward men is a feminist thing to do. And, no, I can't get all worked up about twenty-year-old Drew Barrymore, in 1995, doing a fourteen-second dance on David Letterman's desk, and revealing nothing to the audience more than some side-boob. I don't think that pretty young women's playful flirtatiousness is a threat to all I hold dear. In fact playful flirtatiousness is very much part of what I hold dear. I don't need no ayatollahs of any ideological stripe.

I really want Murray and anyone who tilts at the politically correct windmill to acknowledge how divorced from real people's real lives is the nattering of a Judith Butler or a Ta-Nehisi Coates. Butler and Coates, Twitter bannings and just about any woke event that transpires on an elite university campus are just so much kabuki theater. Butler, Coates and others of their ilk have never lifted up anybody.

Yes, you can be banned from twitter for using the f-word for a gay man. But that doesn't make high school any easier for many gay kids. I know a lesbian who was dragged from a moving car by her high school classmates. Similarly, no matter how overwhelmingly powerful feminism may seem to Murray, I know four women who were raped and chose not to pursue charges because they assumed, probably correctly, that they would suffer from the criminal justice system and might never achieve a conviction. Millions of people celebrated Nathan Philips in their Facebook posts after the Lincoln Memorial confrontation with the Catholic schoolboys. And all that Facebook fawning, and all those dream catchers sold in New Age shops, don't change the fact that too many Native Americans still drink themselves to death.

The gap is monstrous between what the cossetted Ta-Nehisi Coateses and Michael Eric Dysons say on NPR and how the black people I know live real lives. I know young black people who have never eaten fresh fruit, have no idea who their father is, and can't speak Standard English. Millions of other "underclass" African Americans share their fate. Tech's woke machinations and Ivy League symposiums have zero impact on them.

In my estimation, black conservatives offer the black underclass their best hope, but they probably will go to their graves never reading Shelby Steele, Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell or John McWhorter, men who, I know, would inspire them and give them hope they can't get anywhere else.

I also disagree with Murray about Marxism as the best label for the ideology behind wokeness. Marxism is a part, but not the entire edifice. What we confront is Team Anti-Western Civilization, and its reach is pervasive. Woke culture privileges Muslim identity over all other identities. Witness leftists' notorious human sacrifice of black journalist Juan Williams when Williams dared to admit that when he sees passengers with "Muslim garb" on airplanes, he gets nervous. Marxists would have no reason to un-person Williams in deference to Islam. Team Anti-Western Civilization does have a reason for this privileging. Team Anti-Western Civilization embraces black people when black people can be used to undermine majority culture. Team Anti-Western Civilization chooses Islam over a black man because Team Anti-Western Civ sees Islam as better able to topple its enemy. Very nice, suburban, bourgeois ladies I know, women totally unconnected to Marxism, unthinkingly express a conviction that anything Western is oppressive, inferior, and to be shunned. No to Christianity in any form; yes to kitschy dream catchers, utterly fake "Wicca," and little Buddha statues.

Murray's book is more of a sustained rant than a map to a better future. Here's my suggestion: courage, commitment, organization, and action. Those invested in Western Civilization need to find their cause and advance it boldly. Citizens need to educate themselves so that they can respond when someone says that Christianity is genocidal, that white men are uniquely evil, that America is oppressive, that men are women. And then, knowledge in hand, advance on education, commerce, journalism, and social media, not belligerently, but lovingly, and embody what one believes. The response to, "My school is pushing trans extremism and anti-American propaganda" is not "I will homeschool." It's "I will become a teacher" or "I will get elected to the schoolboard" or "I will lobby textbook publishers," or "I will organize with others and change what the school is doing."

This review appears at Front Page Magazine here

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Go See "Jojo Rabbit"

I love movies and I love writing movie reviews. I'm not going to write a review of "Jojo Rabbit." I'm just going to say, "Go see Jojo Rabbit." This movie made me and the person I saw it with laugh, cry, and think. It's the best theatrical-release movie I've seen in 2019, and 2019 is almost over. It's audacious, courageous, moving, unforgettable, original, deeply human, and it gets under your skin. Reward this kind of filmmaking with your ticket-buying dollars.

"Jojo Rabbit" is about a ten-year-old Hitler Youth member living in a German city during the waning days of World War II. He's just a child so he has swallowed Nazi ideology whole. He has an imaginary friend: Adolf Hitler. Jojo lives with his mother, and he attends Hitler Youth meetings.

Making a comedy about Nazism is a tough task. Many have tried and failed. One false move and this movie would be splat all over the floor. There are no false moves. "Jojo Rabbit" is supremely confident. It moves like a well-oiled machine. I don't want to say much more because I want you to be surprised and delighted as I was.

I can say the performances are terrific. I found Sam Rockwell, as a Hitler Youth commander, to be particularly compelling. His final scene in this film is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Scarlett Johansson as Jojo's mother ripped my heart right out of my chest. Rebel Wilson is hysterically funny. Thomasin McKenzie has the gravity of a veteran performer twice her age, and when she finally smiles an innocent, little girl smile it tugs at your heart. Archie Yates, as Jojo's fat friend, is adorable. The tall, thin, pale man who played the Gestapo commander is appropriately terrifying and also funny.

This may have been a low-budget movie but the production values are high. The interiors send you back in time eighty years. Scarlett Johansson wears a green art-deco sweater I wanted to reach through the screen and borrow, and maybe never return.

Taika Waititi as Hitler is, at first, simply funny. But then there's a scene where he really unleashes, and it's terrifying. It's clear that Waititi has watched video of Hitler giving speeches and managed to mimic every crazed, hate-mongering gesture.

Go see this movie. Please. And you're welcome.

Monday, October 14, 2019

A Book No One Will Ever Read: Honey in the Mouth

"One cannot hold honey in the mouth without tasting it." So says Arthashastra, an ancient Sanskrit text. A monarch might employ agents to manage his money. Those agents, in the handling of money, will be tempted to pocket some of it for themselves. Once you experience something sensually, it's hard ever to release it.

Honey in the Mouth was my first book-length work, a fictionalized version of my service in Peace Corps on the Indian subcontinent. Peace Corps volunteers leave their own homes, families, and cultures, and enter new ones. They wear clothing that is, to them, exotic, they speak a different language, they eat different food. Then, as military veterans do, they hop a plane, and return to their previous lives. They are meant to "readjust" to America.

That readjustment is not easy. I lived in a village, reachable only by foot, without electricity, running water, telephones, telegraphs, or roads. I never heard a plane overhead. I went to bed when it got dark and I got up when the sun rose. I cooked the minimal food I could find over a wood fire I made myself. I bathed in a mountain stream, and I supported numerous internal and external parasites. One of my students died of a stomach ache. Another died from a bad tooth. A naked shaman was the closest the village had to a hospital. I contracted a deadly infection and I nearly died. I attribute my survival to a miracle.

Return to the US was not easy. I've heard, and told, this story many times. A returning Peace Corps volunteer had a nervous breakdown in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. I don't know if this tale is fictional or real, but I understand this character.

I wanted to write a book that would capture the Peace Corps experience, and to do that I wanted to communicate to readers what I left behind in the US; thus, Honey in the Mouth begins in the US.

I finished the book in 1985. I couldn't find a publisher. I had no reason to believe in myself as a writer. I was born into a poor, immigrant family and my addiction to writing was clearly interfering with my justifying my immigrant parents' sacrifice and my achieving the American dream. I felt incredibly ashamed for having devoted time to writing this book. Honey in the Mouth was stored on floppy disks. I destroyed them, and I thought that that was that.

Since then I have managed to publish books. They have been well reviewed, although they have not sold many copies. I became curious about Honey in the Mouth. I discovered one, remaining, hard copy, packed in a cardboard box. You are the first to read its introduction.


I wrote the above for Embark, a literary journal that publishes the openings of unpublished novels. 

You can see this intro, and the opening pages of Honey in the Mouth, at the Embark website, here

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Littlewood's Law of Miracles

So, today is my birthday, and, as ever on my birthday, I am alone. 

BTW, thank you to Patricia and Jeanne who were both kind enough to send me birthday cards. Your kindness means a lot. 

My life sucks, and it's utterly pointless. I'm alone, I'm a failure, and I've got chronic pain that almost a dozen doctors now have not been able to address successfully. They know what my body is doing (effectively tearing itself apart). They just can't figure out why. 

And I've never mattered to anyone. 

I keep going, at this point, just out of sheer inertia, and also the awareness that people in my family don't live long, and it will all be over soon enough. 

A few years back, I went to Skylands on my birthday. I generally treat myself to a diet coke when I visit Skylands. Diet cola is my drug of choice. It really helps with my dyslexia and ADHD. Without caffeine, my mind is a hot air balloon following its own blissful path away from focus. 

I stopped drinking caffeinated drinks years ago, to see if that would have any impact on the chronic pain. I miss caffeine terribly.  I do treat myself on visits to Skylands. 

So, a few years back, I was at Skylands on my birthday and I got my diet coke and the can was inscribed with the words, "You've got a friend in me." I found that very touching because, of course, I was alone. 

I put the can down on a bench and took a photo. That photo is above. 

I actually kept the can for a few years but finally relinquished it in the past few months. 

So, this morning, I got up, reminded myself that it is my birthday, and sat down to work at the computer. 

I have I would guess over a thousand photos that I use as desktop backgrounds. Word shuffles them and they appear on the desktop background for ten or thirty minutes or so. 

A lot of the photos are of dogs, birds, nature scenes, leaves, handsome men (Gary Cooper, Hugh Jackman, Richard Armitage, Cary Grant, etc), winter, autumn, deserts, flowers. 

This morning, out of all these maybe thousands of photos, the photo that popped up from the Word-juggled shuffle was this very photo, that I took a few years ago on my birthday, a coke can promising me that somewhere, out there, I have a friend. 

Littlewood's Law of Miracles states that so many things happen per day that you will experience a miracle at least once a month. 

I'm underwhelmed by Littlewood. With a name like that, no wonder he felt a need to establish his own superiority to others. 

This photo greeting me as I sat down to work, alone, on my birthday, is a miracle to me. 

Or chance. 

Or a miracle ... 

Not really sure. But I liked it. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

"How to fight Anti-Semitism" Bari Weiss's New Book Misses the Mark

How to Fight Anti-Semitism
Bari Weiss's New Book Misses the Mark

America needs a good book entitled How to Fight Anti-Semitism. Though Jews make up 2.2 percent of the US population, Jews constitute 60 percent of religiously motivated hate crime victims. Recent months have seen a surge of violent attacks on Jews in New York City. The attacks are often recorded on video. Attackers are often black or Hispanic. The attacks have gone underreported and little discussed; one theory is that blacks attacking whites is not the kind of hate crime the media wants to emphasize.

We require instruction in fighting anti-Semitism because Israel is a valued US ally, and Israel's very right to exist is questioned on college campuses and by new congress members. We need it because though many have considered anti-Semitism to be a right-wing phenomenon, this hatred is found on the left as well as on the right; witness British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. There are too many anti-Semitic events on university campuses to list. Various watchdog organizations keep records; one such account is here.

We need to prepare to fight anti-Semitism because the US has a rising Muslim population, and as The Pew Research Center reports, "Anti-Jewish sentiment is endemic in the Muslim world." Muslim anti-Semitism distorts American history. Significant percentages of Muslims believe that Jews carried out the 9-11 terror attacks. Amiri Baraka, once New Jersey's poet laureate, PEN award winner, and father of Newark's mayor, repeated this conspiracy theory in his poetry.

We need to understand how to fight anti-Semitism because ignorance of the Holocaust is a "global crisis," including among highly "educated" American millennials. We need to understand the Holocaust for the same reason we need to fight anti-Semitism. The villains who begin by attacking Jews never end by attacking Jews. Anti-Semites are a menace to us all.

Bari Weiss seems well-positioned to write a groundbreaking book defining and combatting anti-Semitism in the 21st century. She became bat mitzvah at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, scene of the 2018 mass shooting. Weiss is a New York Times editor. She's pretty, charming, and young, and has been a guest on Bill Maher's Real Time HBO show. Though she says she doesn't want "points" for her sexual identity, she earns them anyway for once dating Saturday Night Live superstar Kate McKinnon. Weiss describes herself as a centrist, and she has been praised for criticizing anti-Semitism from both the left and the right, from both Christians and Muslims. What's not to like?

Alas, Weiss's How to Fight Anti-Semitism is not the book America needs right now. It reads more like a Facebook post by a bright, passionate, but not particularly scholarly, rigorous, or fair Facebook friend. How to Fight Anti-Semitism, like a Facebook post, focuses on current events. It offers currently popular whipping boys: Western Civilization, Christianity, and President Donald Trump.

Much of the book consists of one account after another of recent anti-Semitic incidents: Tree of Life, the attack on the Hypercacher supermarket in Paris, the kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi, the decapitation of Daniel Pearl, anti-Semitic incidents on American campuses, and others. In a short while all of these contemporary anecdotes will be dusty and dated. Weiss's insistence that all incidents involving violence against a Jew can be understood using the same paradigm is questionable. Are the young black men violently attacking Jews in New York City really driven by the same motivations as Pearl's murderers and pogromists in medieval Germany? No evidence is offered to support this.

Weiss doesn't get around to her suggestions for fighting anti-Semitism until the final 37 pages of the 210-page book, and her tips feel grounded more in the self-help movement than in any serious scholarship, boots-on-the-ground activism, or skilled self-defense. "Lean into Judaism … Stop blaming yourself … Tell the truth … Trust your discomfort … Allow for the possibility of change … Praise those who do the right thing … Maintain your liberalism" are some of her methods. The suggestions are for Jews, not for non-Jews who are dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism. Prayer and devotion are not among Weiss's suggestions. Weiss "resonates" with a self-definition as a Shinto Jew, that is a Jew who honors her Jewish ancestors. She is not sure about belief in God.

There's been a great deal of serious scholarship on the topic of hate in general and anti-Semitism in particular. There's a massive amount of lived experience on how to survive as a member of a targeted minority. Ethnographers and former hate group members offer veritable MRIs of haters' brains. Those abundant resources are not reflected here.

Weiss says that the New Testament provides the "template" for anti-Semitism. "Christianity" is "responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other ideology on the planet," she writes. Weiss is wrong on three counts. First, as I'll argue, below, Christians have killed Jews, but Christianity has not. Second, Nazism, not Christianity, is the ideology that is responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other. Weiss could benefit from reading "Against Identifying Nazism with Christianity," found here. Third, Weiss makes this statement as part of a whitewash of Islam. More on that, below.

In today's world, every serious person, Christian, Jewish, secular, or other, must understand the following facts. These facts must be stated not just to Weiss but to any anti-Semite who seeks rationale for anti-Semitism within the New Testament. They must also be stated in relation to Islam, which Weiss also addresses.

The New Testament was written by Jews, with the possible exception of Luke, who may or may not have been Jewish. The New Testament was written about a Jew, Jesus. Jesus and the apostles were Jews, descendants of Abraham, living in Israel, speaking Jewish Aramaic and using Hebrew in their religious lives. They followed the Levitical commandments, and they, as do Christians today, regarded the Old Testament as inspired scripture.

Further, the New Testament is rooted in the Old. Open to any page of the New Testament in an annotated Bible and find footnotes directing the reader to parallel passages in the Old. Mary, the mother of Jesus, recites a song called the Magnificat. The song's style is that of the synonymous parallelism of Hebrew poetry. Specifically, Mary's song echoes The Song of Hannah from the Old Testament book of Samuel. Jesus is asked to identify the greatest commandment; in his reply, Jesus echoes Deuteronomy and Leviticus. As Jesus dies on the cross, he speaks words from Psalm 22.  

Jews, no less than Christians, have to wrestle with difficult verses. The Old Testament contains many hair-raising proclamations where an angry God promises total devastation to his chosen people. In Hosea 13-14:5-15,1 God says he will be like a lion or bear and tear Israelites' hearts from their breasts and fetuses from pregnant wombs. This is terrible stuff, but depicting God as so angry at sin that he exerts graphic punishment is part of the Jewish scriptural tradition, a tradition in which the Jews writing the New Testament were steeped. Jews and Christians must work together to interpret these verses.

There are no verses in the New Testament calling on Christians to kill anyone, including Jews. Rather, the message of the New Testament can be summed up in one verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." The Parable of the Good Samaritan is groundbreaking. Its message is that we are to love those unlike ourselves, including the most hated other. Jesus, after torture and near death, said, "Father forgive them." This is the message of the New Testament.

Yes, haters have used verses from the New Testament to rationalize anti-Semitism and violence against Jews. While acknowledging this, we must not elevate haters' twisted logic.

The Old Testament, no less than the New, has been blamed for atrocity. For centuries, those who support slavery and serfdom cited the Biblical "Curse of Ham." Eve's eating the apple, precipitating exile from the Garden of Eden, has been cited as the source of misogyny. Exodus 22:18 has been blamed for Europe's witch craze, and Leviticus 20:13 has been blamed for all homophobia.

I don't have to wonder how Bari Weiss would feel if I were to advance the Old Testament as the "template" for slavery, for misogyny, for crazed mob killings, or for homophobia. I know she would feel the outrage I feel when I read her citing the New Testament as the "template" for anti-Semitism. Not just outrage, but logic, renders all these arguments invalid. Clearly the message of Exodus, of "Let My People Go," is one of a God who wants people to be free, not enslaved. The Old Testament is alone in world scripture for featuring real, named, average women as driving characters: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Ruth, Naomi, Judith, Esther, Hannah, Hagar, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Tamar, Shiphrah, Puah, and Jochabed. When it comes to the Biblically-mandated death penalty for witchcraft or homosexuality, Jews mention the Talmud's anti-death penalty stance. Further, we know that slavery, misogyny, homophobia, and mob killings are found in cultures untouched by the Bible.

Anti-Semites' distorted interpretations of the New Testament are not the alpha and omega of Jewish-Christian relations, but that is all Weiss talks about. She does not mention that again and again popes and everyday Christians have put their lives on the line to fight against anti-Semitism. The sixteenth-century Council of Trent insisted that humanity, primarily Christians, are responsible for the death of Jesus. The twelfth-century papal bull Sicut Judaies insisted that Christians must not harm Jews; this bull had several antecedents and descendants. Weiss mentions France's persecution of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, but not his defense by devout Catholic Charles Peguy.

Weiss blames the Rintfleisch massacres, a medieval German pogrom, on the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and, as she puts it, "a wafer," that is, to me and other Catholics, the Eucharist. Weiss claims that "one hundred thousand Jews were murdered." I cannot find her number supported in other sources.

In fact the pogrom to which she refers was sparked by debt. A man indebted to Jews invented a story of abuse of a Eucharist in order to excuse a pogrom. Weiss does not mention that some Christians attempted to assist persecuted Jews, or that when the local monarch regained lost power he put the man who stirred up the pogrom to death.

Why do these details matter? Why must we mention that Catholic doctrine does not mandate that Christians murder Jews, that communion is indeed holy to Catholics and that attributing to communion the power to murder Jews is profoundly inaccurate, that not all Christians, even in the midst of a medieval pogrom, were murderers? Why must one mention the class elements at play? 

These details matter because Christians like me are on the front lines in condemning anti-Semitism wherever we encounter it, no matter the social cost. It matters because Christians like my father risked their lives fighting, and defeating, anti-Semitic fascism in World War II. It matters because Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world today, and when you equate a religion – Christianity – with a crime – anti-Semitism – you make Christians less safe. Why bother protecting Christians if their belief system is the font of worldwide evil? These details matter because Weiss's analysis is wrong. The New Testament is not the template for anti-Semitism, and one must understand the historical factors at work in hate.

Weiss's tendency to leave out key facts occurs more than once in How to Fight Anti-Semitism. She bashes Breitbart as anti-Semitic. Proof? Breitbart called Bill Kristol a "renegade Jew." Weiss does not mention that the author of that very column was David Horowitz, who is himself Jewish.

Weiss insists that she was subjected to internet abuse after her appearance on the Joe Rogan show because she is Jewish. During her appearance, Weiss smeared Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard as an "Assad toadie" and as a supporter of conversion therapy. Rogan challenged Weiss. Weiss floundered, acknowledging that she didn't know the meaning of the word "toadie." She continued to insist that Gabbard was pro-conversion therapy. In fact Gabbard supported conversion therapy when she was a teenager. She has since renounced that support. The most popular critical comments on YouTube accuse Weiss of being arrogant and unaware of facts. The most popular comments do not mention Weiss's Jewishness.

Weiss cites Nathan Hannover, the seventeenth-century chronicler of the 1648-1657 Khmelnytsky Uprising of Ukrainian Cossacks against Polish domination. Weiss describes tortures committed by Ukrainians against Jews. It looks, again, like what we have is those evil Christians doing bad things to Jews because they are Christian and Christians hate Jews. Weiss does not mention that the Khmelnytsky Uprising, which, to her, is all about Christian Ukrainians expressing their innate, Christian anti-Semitism, is recorded in Polish history as part of "The Deluge," a catastrophic series of attacks against Poland in the seventeenth century. She doesn't mention that Christian Ukrainians tortured Christian Poles, thus, it can't be explained away as "Those awful Christians inevitably acting out their innate anti-Semitism caused by their religion." The tortures of the Khmelnytsky Uprising were repeated centuries later. In the 1940s, during the Volhynian Slaughter, Ukrainians again tortured and murdered Poles. One hundred thousand Poles were killed. Priests were crucified. The genocidal goal was to obliterate any biological or cultural Polish presence. Weiss doesn't mention that the very historian she cites, Nathan Hannover, himself speaks of Jewish oppression of Ukrainian peasants.

My friend John Guzlowski's family members were raped, tortured, dismembered, and murdered by Ukrainians and Nazi allies. I do not hesitate to acknowledge that the people who tortured my friend's family were, in their own minds, exacting revenge on Poles for previous mistreatment. Acknowledging this history does not justify Ukrainians torturing and murdering my friend's family. Acknowledging this history contributes to understanding. Weiss, though, rejects any integration of historical details into her analysis of anti-Semitism. "This kind of logic" she says "excuses anti-Semitism." No, placing attacks in context does not excuse anti-Semitism or any other violence. Rather, fully understanding atrocity is perhaps the only way out of atrocity.

Weiss extracts events from historical context. Those atrocities are simply just more examples of Christians hating Jews just because they are Christians, and that's what Christians do. Weiss also extracts anti-Semitism from the context of other hatreds. Anti-Semitism, she insists, has nothing in common with hatred of any other people from any other group. Study of hate and atrocity in general, she seems to feel, cannot add to understanding of anti-Semitism.

Other scholars have taken a different approach. One such scholar is Edna Bonacich; another is Amy Chua. Bonacich is a rabbi's daughter. Chua's aunt was murdered by her Filipino chauffeur. Both scholars struggled with the problem of hate. Their work describes a variety of populations that have experienced prejudice, atrocity, and exile. Bonacich calls these populations "middleman minorities." Chua calls them "market-dominant minorities." Bonacich, Chua, and Thomas Sowell, who has also taken up this topic, write not just about Jews in Europe, but also Chinese in Malaysia, Indians in East Africa, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Koreans in Los Angeles, and others. My own take on the middleman theory at play in Polish-Jewish relations can be seen here. Weiss never mentions these scholars' work. Even if Weiss wanted to reject Bonacich's theory, she should at least have addressed it.

Rather, Weiss chooses an ahistorical and disease-model approach. She says anti-Semitism can't be defined because it is a "shape-shifter" that "slithers" away from definition. Anti-Semitism cannot be understood alongside any other hatred. Rather, anti-Semitism is "an intellectual disease," "a deeply rooted and highly infectious thought virus carried in the DNA of Western culture." Every participant in Western civilization carries this virus. When stress affects the immune system, you break out in a case of anti-Semitism. "The virus will out." "Anti-Semitism is baked into the very foundations of the world we inhabit." Anti-Semitism is "an essential scaffolding for Western civilization." It is "one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed." Thus, anti-Semitism is "a culturally inherited disease."  

If you think you are not infected with the anti-Semitism virus, if you think you actually like Jews, Weiss will correct you. "A philo-Semite is an anti-Semite who likes Jews." Did no one reviewing this book at the editing stage realize how offensive this is, or how close it is to Nazi ideology that compared Jews to a disease?

Weiss misrepresents the Jewish experience in the United States, and her misrepresentation is not a minor matter. Jews succeeded in America without having to sacrifice their Jewishness, she says. Their success proves that America is better than, say, Poland, a country she mentions several times, always disparagingly . In fact Jewishness in Poland and America were completely different phenomena. In Poland, Jews spoke a different language, Yiddish, than the rest of the population, they wore distinctive dress, they did not marry non-Jews, and they occupied a caste-like status in the primitive economy. Those conditions don't exist in the US. Where they are even slightly replicated, tension erupts.

Weiss mentions the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia. She depicts Frank's murder as an unchanging expression of Christian hatred for Jews. She does not mention the economic and regional tensions at work. Frank was a Yankee, and Mary Phagan, the girl he was alleged to have killed, was a 13-year-old local girl working in his factory. She'd gone to work at age 10. There was much tension among poor, Southern whites because their children were doing hard, low-paying work in factories owned by non-locals. None of these economic and social details excuses the lynching of Leo Frank. All of them must be adduced fully to understand what happened to Frank.

University of Iowa Professor Stephen G. Bloom's superb 2001 book Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America offers a contrast to Weiss's approach. Bloom describes cultural and economic tension between non-Jewish Iowans and newly arriving Orthodox Jews in one rural town. Bloom offers a thorough history and rich ethnography based on his penetration of the local community. He does not write off tensions as resulting from "diseased" Christian Iowans just giving in to their innate, undefinable, anti-Semitism virus. He describes daily interactions that go wrong, and that can be addressed and changed for the better for everyone involved.

If there is one antagonist in Weiss's book, it is President Donald Trump. He has, she argues, eroded standards of civility that protect minorities like Jews. She categorizes as anti-Semitic Trump telling The Squad to go back to where they came from. I'm no Trump apologist and I acknowledge that Trump is uncivil. But Weiss misses that Trump's successful incivility is an epiphenomenon, a backlash against a more powerful social force. Trump did not invent incivility. Have a look at the utterly vile, misogynist and classist insults that liberals hurled at Alaska Governor Sarah Palin when she first appeared on the national stage. Look at how liberals use the word "white" to denigrate human beings. Listen to what squad members Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar say about America. When Trump supporters hear Trump's incivility, they hear a champion standing up for them against an all powerful Political Correctness that has suppressed and demonized them.

Similarly, Weiss could, but she does not, cite ethnographic research on those online hate group members she rants against. Christian Picciolini, a former hate group member, says that young men are susceptible to hate groups because they need identity, community, and purpose. Modern schools, popular culture, and other socializing forces in America all too often do not provide these vital gifts to young white men. Rather, the powers that be drill into them that they are shameful racists, sexists, and responsible for all the world's woes. Weiss does acknowledge that the left creates a vacuum by refusing to create a healthy patriotism and pride. But she insists that Western Civilization is inherently diseased, so she undermines her own argument.

Weiss opens her chapter on Islam with her description of the Rintfleisch massacres. Holy communion makes Catholics kill Jews: a Politically Correct way of opening a chapter meant to discuss Islamic anti-Semitism. Weiss goes on to indict Christianity as the "ideology" that is responsible for the murder of more Jews than any other. She relativizes. The New Testament is just like the Koran because both contain "terrible lines about Jews." Weiss says that Jews lived comparatively well in Muslim lands until recently, when Christian colonizers arrived, bringing anti-Semitism with them. Surprisingly, she also cites the creation of the state of Israel as a cause of Islamic anti-Semitism.

I sent my impressions of Weiss's comments about Islam to Robert Spencer. As far as I know, he has not read Weiss's book, so his reaction is to my summary of it. He wrote back to me, "This is howlingly false. Antisemitism is deeply embedded in the Quran and Sunnah. See the citations here. There is also a great deal of antisemitism in Islamic tradition and Islamic history. See my book The History of Jihad."

In addition to the anti-Semitism in the Koran, one must be aware of the following. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, unlike Jesus, was not a Jew. He did not live in Israel. He did not speak Jewish Aramaic or understand Biblical Hebrew. Islam denigrates the Bible, saying that Jews and Christians corrupted the message they received from Allah. Mohammed was sent to correct that corruption. Christians read the Old Testament every day. People in Muslims countries have been tortured for being in possession of a Bible. Islam rewrites Jesus as desiring to destroy Christianity. The Koran insists that Abraham was not a Jew. Weiss mentions none of this.

And this is one of the reasons why every citizen, no matter their personal faith life, must understand my lengthy comments, above, about Christianity and anti-Semitism. If Weiss is correct, Christianity is evil and should be eliminated. She's not correct. The New Testament is not like the Koran. In Jesus's sayings and behavior, there is no exhortation to, or celebration of, killing Jews or anyone else.

The same cannot be said about the Koran, hadith, and Sunnah. Readers should expose themselves to the sources Robert Spencer cites, above. The Koran repeatedly and explicitly calls for the killing and torture of non-Muslims. It says that Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs. As part of daily prayer, Muslims repeat seventeen times a day that Jews anger Allah (and that Christians go astray.) There is no comparison between the Islamic approach to Jews and Judaism and the Christian approach.

Christians like me, indeed Polish Catholics like me, oppose anti-Semitism with everything we've got. We do so because of, not in spite of, our Christian faith and investment in Western civilization. I am not diseased because I am a Christian and a Westerner. I am blessed. My faith and my civilization give tools I would not otherwise have to dismantle hate. I hope those who see the world as Weiss does learn to recognize people like me as allies.

Persons who are neither Christian nor Jewish need to understand, as well. We live in the age of the Clash of Civilizations and that clash is taking place in local schools. Young people need to know that their heritage is worth cherishing, and they need to understand the challenges presented by other worldviews.

 This piece appears in Front Page Magazine here

Thursday, October 10, 2019

"God through Binoculars" Took Me Outside Myself: Father Dwight Longenecker in the Imaginative Conservative.

Father Dwight Longenecker was kind enough to review God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery at the Imaginative Conservative website. You can read Father Dwight's review below or at his website, here

Escaping from Myself
by Dwight Longenecker

Books should take you outside yourself. They should introduce you to new people, new worlds, new thoughts and new ideas. They should give you new ways of seeing and new ways of being.

Unfortunately, my life has too often been filled with books that do no such thing. I am sent two or three books a week to read and review. Because I have a blog authors and publishers seem to think that I have nothing else to do but read their books and write wonderful reviews. It is assumed that the blogger must be a full time book promotion and publicity machine—and all completely free of charge!

Unfortunately, with the advent of print on demand, the price of producing books has fallen. The number of books has therefore shot upward, at the same time the number of serious readers has plummeted. Alas, most of the books therefore are disposable and forgettable.

What is that tart comment? “Everyone has a book inside them, and for most people that is where it should stay…”

Consequently, I have developed a cunning plan to deal with the steady stream of books that wash up on my desk. If the cover is interesting I open the book. If the table of contents is interesting I start to read the book. If the second paragraph still holds my interest I read on. I stop reading the book when I am no longer interested.

I’m afraid I rarely get past the first chapter. I do not blame the author. Some of the books are worthy and well written but simply not for me. Then there is my own increasingly short attention span and even shorter patience.

Therefore, if a book does get me…if I finish the darn thing it finally gets a review. This summer two books got me because they took me outside myself. I should explain that my world is what you might expect. It is the rather conventional and conservative world of a Catholic priest and writer. My conversations, my books, my viewing and my life, like most people’s, usually circle within my little world.

But God Through Binoculars - A Hitchhiker at a Monastery caught my attention. First it was the author’s name. Is Danusha Goska male or female? What is this foreign sounding name? I am guessing Russian, Rumanian, Ukranian or something thereabouts. I view the cover. Monastery is good and hitchhiker is good. In the summer of 1987 I hitch hiked to Jerusalem from England staying in monasteries all along the route so I was curious.

Danusha, it turns out is a feisty Polish American woman, and a devout Catholic. Down on her luck, she decided to hitchhike from New Jersey to a monastery in Virginia to seek God’s guidance. Her book is the account of that journey. Part travel book, spiritual journal, bird watcher’s guide, conversion story and delightfully eccentric grumble, God Through Binoculars took me outside myself on a curiously unpredictable adventure.

The author tells how she was brought up in an impoverished, devout but dysfunctional Catholic family and how she overcame all odds to pursue a career in academia. With detours to discuss the sex life of hyenas, the birds of North America and the disappointments of her experience of the Catholic Church, this is one hilarious, passionate, weird and wonderful tale.

Danusha is a person with no guile. She doesn’t pull any punches and has no time for the artificial, the phony and the fake. She is a non conformist and rages against the expected compromises of academia, the hypocrisy of churchmen and the betrayal of friends.

One of the highlights for me was her dissection of Thomas Merton. Far from paying homage to the famous monk, she pokes at Merton’s romanticized monasticism, observing his hypocrisy and the phony liberal Catholicism that his fake mysticism spawned. I’ve felt that way about Merton for some time, so it was refreshing to find a kindred spirit—someone willing to pop the Merton balloon.

Danusha is also refreshingly frank about sex. She discusses some of her love affairs with an explicitness that may make some readers blush. She is equally blunt about her love-hate relationship with the Catholic Church. She clearly loves God and loves her faith, but is impatient with clerical nincompoops, monastic frauds, incompetent establishment goons and all the pompous rigamarole.

God Through Binoculars is a smart, funny, refreshing and quirky read. It’s the best irreverently reverent religious book I’ve read this year.

Speaking of monasteries, Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight in England is one of my favorite places on earth. We were received into the Catholic Church there and I was there to research a book for a week last summer. While there, and old friend, Dom Luke Bell handed me a book to read and review. Love’s Many Names is a collection of poetry by Sam Davidson.

Davidson studied theology and philosophy at Edinburgh University and film studies at Exeter. He worked with Kurdish refugees and war veterans in transit camps in Europe and traveled widely in Europe. His poems reflect his travels and faith, and like Danusha, he took me out of myself because his approach to the faith is so vivid, personal, passionate and unconventional. Like Danusha he writes not only from the heart, but from the guts and from the groin.

These are not religious poems per se, but they are deeply mystical. Like all good poets and authentic mystics, Davidson wrings meaning out of his life. He sees with sacramental eyes and perceives the passion within his experience. Here a poem describes with painful objectivity the passion and despair of the homeless. There a poem subtly melds his love for a woman with the passion of Christ. Here he rages with the refugee, there he touches the hem of nature’s beauty with a masculine tenderness.

Davidson’s verse is sometimes free but often formal, with the subtle formality of the under appreciated Movement poets—that group of English post war poets who retained classical forms while integrating natural speech rhythms and idioms. When he is writing formally Davidsom echoes the style of Philip Larkin, Thom Gunn, Donald Davie and Elizabeth Jennings.

Like Jennings, Davidson’s poems hover around the subject of Catholic faith without ever being on the nose, saccharine or sentimental. The Christian faith is never obvious here. Instead it runs like life blood through the images, cadences and schemes of the poetry.

Like Danusha, Davidson writes simply and without guile. Both authors do not seem to care whether they please anyone. They are being honest and they write truth from the heart.

Did I say these books took me out of myself? They did, but only to open me more deeply to remember a man I sued to be.  I rediscovered that young man who hitchhiked to Jerusalem over thirty years ago, flirting with the call of the monastery. I got back in touch with the unconventional young man who fled America on a crazy notion of being a poet, like George Herbert in an English country vicarage.

Both books are a refreshing and heart inspiring read and for once I was glad for the unsolicited books that end up on my desk. Consequently I have decided to grumble a little less and view each new book as a possible fresh adventure and perhaps another pilgrimage outside myself.

Love’s Many Names is published by Angelico Press. God Through Binoculars by Shanti Arts Publishing.