The Revolution is Not a Dinner Party

It's Just Lunch....or IS IT??

Friday, April 01, 2005

RIP: John Paul II

If you want info on what happens during the interregnum, I have some links here.

The Pope's passing give us a chance to reflect on what it means to lead a good life. Personally, this came into focus for me while listening to Daniel Pipes speak to the Federalist Society here at NYU. Our president tosses around the words "good" and "evil" enough to deprive them of all coherent meaning. But, yesterday, listening to Pipes speak and thinking about John Paul's life, I realized that there really are good and evil people here on earth.

First, the Pope. People around school ask me, "you don't seriously care about the Pope, do you?" The reality is I do. I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who have faith in their lives. I am not a faithful person, I don't think being faith-filled would improve MY life one iota. But, that doesn't take away from the fact that many people need faith, and for many people faith is the only way to endure nasty, brutish, and short lives in this deeply flawed world. I respect John Paul II because of his ability to lead the faithful of the Earth by example. I don't think I can think of another living leader who can speak with the same legitimacy to the faithful of the Earth. This isn't a man who only connected with Catholics. He drew huge crowds in India, Africa, and Asia. Even us cynical Jews seem to, as group, respect the man. It is remarkable that, in a hyper-modern world, this man has led faithful people by example. That is a type of leadership that can't be taught. Maybe it can't even be learned. John Paul II wielded tremendous moral and political influence on a deeply skeptical world without an army and using only his own moral legitimacy.

A constant source of criticism of the Pope is the policies of the Catholic Church. I absolutely agree that it is abominable to prohibit condom distribution in overcrowded developing countries. The Church's treatment of homosexuals is retrograde and embarrassing. Many missionaries still trade rice for conversions. Many Church institutions are deeply sexist. But, using these things to criticize John Paul II is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Pope's role. Its a law school conceit to conflate policy makers and policy. The Pope is constrained by politics and law just like any leader. Furthermore, he is not a policy-maker, he is a man of faith serving as the organ of God in this mortal sphere. Whether we can intellectually accept that is a very different question. But, its not acceptable to say, "if he claims to be the organ of God, he must agree with me and my conceptions about what God would want, or he's not legitimate." An example of this misunderstanding is an article I saw this week which claimed last year's papal pronouncement that feeding tubes are not 'extraordinary measures' means that the Pope would want to have a feeding tube. No, it means that God's policy, which the Pope is servant to and the organ of, is that feeding tubes are not optional.

This is a profoundly important man for millions of people around the world, that alone should be enough command our respect. His life story is nothing short of amazing. Think about how fracturing and disruptive life under Soviet control was for half of Europe. Yet, this man comes out of that situation and is able to engage both the masses and the elite of the rest of the world. He was a good man.

Daniel Pipes, on the other hand, is evil. Never before has a speaker made me so ill and upset. What really bothered me was his total abuse of his title as "eminent historian." Under the guise of his own intellectual achievement, he manhandled history in such a transparent and embarrassing way that I felt as bad for him as for the throngs of admires constantly taking photos of him. Not to dwell too long on this fool, but his basic idea is that Our enemy is not just terrorism but the ideology of Islamic Extremism. We need to fight a total war against the ideas of Islamists and not just Islamist terrorists. He publishes articles about how to tell a "normal Muslim" from an "Islamist." He refuses to make any real policy suggestions as to what to do with extremists when we out them, but since "they want to replace our Constitution with the Koran," they are all treasonous. He argues over and over again that the "hijacking of Islam in America by Islamists" is historically unprecedented, but constantly uses historical analogies to totalitarianism and communism. Most upsetting, as far as principled argumentation goes, was his total side-stepping of the fundamental moral difference between a war on terrorism and war on an ideology that supports terrorism. That's what's so shitty and evil about Pipes, he's advocating the wholesale annihilation of a worldview, and he does it using the most base utilitarian arguments. To quote, "liberals appease threats, I fight them head on." Even worse, his arguments are neither coherent nor substantiated. He's betrayed his intellectual heritage and the entire field of History so that he can be the glam poster-child of the modern day Charles Lindberg set. FUCK YOU DANIEL PIPES, if there is a hell, you'll be there soon enough. Also, just an know someone is a pretentious bastard when they talk about their "web log" rather than "blog."


At 12:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant take.

Very well done.


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