- Milan Kundera
Today I was processing books for the library, part of a large collection given to us by a minister who passed away recently.
I picked up one book on The Philosophy of John Dewey. I went to the web service we use to find cataloging data. Because the book is fairly old, there were only a few listings there. As always, I searched for a record that included the Library of Congress catalog number, because that's the system we use. Unfortunately, there was none.
All the records, I found, were catalogued in Dewey Decimal.
I guess there's a cosmic rightness there that overrides my personal convenience.
Also I found a book called Preaching Values, by Halford Luccock. That's a title that surprises no one in our day. Obviously the book is meant to help pastors pass on Christian moral values in their sermons.
But this book was published in 1928. It was about the values, for preachers, of certain modern Bible translatons.
The new translations included Moffat and Goodspeed.
The past, truly, is a different country, my friends.
And yeah, I fantasize about living in that other country. Some days it looks like Heaven, or Norway, to me.
But our plumbing is better here.
I'm about to write about the Pope's comments on Islam, and the Muslim reaction. If you're sick of hearing about it, you can skip the rest of this post.
I saw a button back in the '60s that said, "Support Mental Health Or I'll Kill You."
Any reasonable person would recognize that rioting and murdering people are a self-contradictory means of proclaiming one's peacefulness. And the fact that a large part of the Muslim world fails to get the joke (such as it is) pretty much says it all.
But the Islamic world doesn't care. Because they're not involved in a struggle of ideas, but a struggle of honor.
Honor, and honor cultures, is one of my hobbyhorses. I believe (perhaps wrongly) that my study of Viking sagas has taught me something about the subject.
It's not about making sense, for our enemies. It's about having honor, being what Bin Laden calls "the strong horse."
As long as we continue our policy, all over the West, of playing a game in which the other side's role is to commit outrages and ours is to reward them for it, they will continue to see us as people of no honor. Weak horses. Countries that it would be an act of charity to conquer, so that they might teach us to be men.
The reasonable way to handle this (not in the common sense of the word "reasonable," which for us means something like "inactive," but reasonable in the sense of operating in a way appropriate to the situation) would be to act to defend our honor. Some kind of strong action is required, not necessarily, but probably, violent.
That would go far to restore our honor in their eyes.
It would be a charitable act too, because it might warn them off. They would be less likely to commit the enormity that seems, under present conditions, pretty much inevitable. Because when that enormity happens--when they blow up a bomb in America, or unleash a chemical weapon, we will unite again and take violent action. Probably even if the president is a Democrat. Many more people will die under that scenario.
It won't happen, of course. Bush would be impeached. Someone might even assassinate him under the current climate of opinion (or passion).
I can hear people objecting now, "But defending our honor's not a Christian response!"
Those who say this are generally the same people who've been trying to tell us for thirty years that America is not a Christian nation, and has never been a Christian nation. Christianity, they insist, is more foreign to American tradition than Peruvian painting or Mongolian music.
But I've written about that before. And I don't believe Christian personal ethics apply to governments. "The emperor bears the sword" (Romans 13:4), after all.
And I also think saving lives is a consideration that bears a certain moral weight.