Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rogation Sunday--"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"

Today is Rogation Sunday. That means that we pray for the farmers and for all those who plant and grow things for the good of mankind. Here is the collect, which reminds us that "every good and every perfect gift is from above."

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Fortunately, this collect allows those of us with black thumbs also to get some of the blessing. Perhaps we can bring forth spiritual fruit even though we are no good at growing physical fruits and flowers.

In line with the denomination-bending (or should I say blending?) purposes of this blog, I thought of a smack-dab-in-the-center typical Protestant hymn, a wonderful hymn, for Rogation Sunday. "Great is Thy Faithfulness" contains a definite reference to the seasons ("Summer and winter and spring-time and harvest...") and connects the faithfulness of God with God's blessing of the seasons and His blessing on man's work of planting and harvesting.

Here's Wes Hampton and the Gaither Homecoming group singing it:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The chimera of the peace process

The problem of the Israelis and the "Palestinians" is intractable. There is no good solution. And the reason that there is no good solution is that the "Palestinians" do not have good will and that they raise their children through successive generations not to have good will. Their goal is the eradication of the nation of Israel, an Arab "Palestine" that encompasses all the land from the river to the sea, and all concessions made will simply be used as stepping stones to that goal. A Palestinian state would simply be another such stepping stone. It would not be a functional, autonomous state whose rulers had anything like the normal goals of the rulers of a state--running infrastructure, governing their own people for something like the public good. It would simply be a rocket-launching pad against Israel, a dysfunctional pseudo-state funded by everyone else (including Israel, for that matter), and Israel's implacable enemy. Like Gaza, in fact, only bigger (and possibly, of course, including Gaza and cutting Israel literally in two).

Another way to put this is that most Israelis would be happy with some kind of two-state solution but that the Palestinians don't really want a state of their own in which to settle down and try to flourish as peaceful neighbors of the Israelis. They want the destruction of Israel. A no-win situation.

And the frightening fact, as Gaza has shown us, is that the outside world would blame Israel for both active and passive attempts to protect itself from this implacable enemy--for both border control and for defensive response to direct attack--and would hold Israel directly and permanently responsible for the self-inflicted misery of the Palestinian people. Ceding land to the Palestinians and demanding that they take responsibility for themselves will never be allowed to the Israelis as a way out of the no-win situation.

So, in my opinion, there should be no "peace process." It's a sham and worse than a sham.

While it's perhaps too much to expect Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal to draw this conclusion, it's possible that he's beginning to get it about the intractability of the problem and the foolishness of talking about peace negotiations as though peace is an attainable outcome. In a rather surprising op-ed last week, he said the following (emphasis added):

The fiction that is typically offered about the refugees by devotees of the peace process is that Palestinian leaders see them as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with Israel, perhaps in exchange for the re-division of Jerusalem. But listen in on the internal dialogue of Palestinians and you will hear that the “right of return” is an inviolable, inalienable and individual right of every refugee. In other words, a right that can never (and never safely) be bargained away by Palestinian leaders for the sake of a settlement with Israel.

In this belief the Palestinians are sustained by many things.

One is the mythology of 1948, which is long on tales of what Jews did to Arabs but short on what Arabs did to Jews—or to themselves. Another is the text of U.N. resolution 194, written in 1948, which plainly states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” A third is UNRWA, the U.N. agency that has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem for generations when most other refugees have been successfully repatriated. A fourth is their ill treatment at the hands of their Arab hosts, which has caused them to yearn for the fantasy of a homeland—orchards and all—that modern-day Israel succeeds in looking very much like. A fifth is the incessant drone of Palestinian propaganda whose idea of Palestinian statehood traces the map of Israel itself.

Other things could be mentioned. But the roots of the problem are beside the point. The real point is that a grievance that has been nursed for 63 years and that can move people to acts like those witnessed on Sunday is never going to allow a political accommodation with Israel and would never be satisfied by one anyway.

No wonder Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s prime minister, can say he would be prepared to accept the 1967 borders—but that establishing those borders will never mean an end to the conflict. The same goes for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who praised Sunday’s slain protesters as martyrs who “died for the Palestinian people’s rights and freedom.” This from the “moderate” who is supposed to acquaint his people with the reality and purpose of a two-state solution.

Blogger David Isaac makes the point concerning the intractability of the situation:

One of the curious things about the Arab-Israel conflict is that the truth behind the conflict cannot be said: The simple truth that there is no “peace process”, there never was a “peace process”, and the Arabs want Israel eliminated. It’s a testament to how off-limits this truth is that, until this Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal...never published an op-ed saying so. It’s impossible to enact intelligent policy when it’s based on a lie. Of course, Israel contributes to the problem by endorsing the ‘two-state solution’. Israel needs to be the first to say this is a delusion. Only then can we expect things to change.

As Isaac points out, it's perhaps asking a lot of the Wall Street Journal to draw conclusions which even Israel's allegedly most hawkish political rulers don't seem willing to draw, at least not openly and consistently. As he puts it concerning Netanyahu, "We may indeed be entering a new era in the Arab-Israel conflict, one in which Israel’s leaders tell the unvarnished truth, only to dismiss it a moment later." (This is just one reason why the silly talk from the left about bloodthirsty "Likudniks" is such a joke--something coming from an alternative reality that bears no connection to the world we actually live in.)

Isaac quotes some home truths on this subject from The Hollow Peace by Shmuel Katz. (Emphasis added.)

[The spokesmen of the Establishment] refrained from mentioning the fact that the Arab nations meant to prevent the birth of the Jewish State, and that they continued, once the State was born, to hatch plots for its destruction. Israel’s policy ignored this bitter truth and centred mainly on the slogan that Israel wanted peace and that her leaders were prepared to negotiate with any Arab leader. This formula unwittingly distorted the image of the Arab leaders: it endowed them in the eyes of the world, with the quality of reasonableness, as though they were open to discussion. The image of the dispute itself was altered out of all recognition, and made to seem an ordinary border dispute, which could be eliminated by a chat with some Arab leader.


To diplomats of the nations of the world – in Washington or in London, in Paris or in Stockholm – accustomed to “handling” territorial disputes in a commonly accepted format, which they could understand from their experience and education, it was “discomfiting” to have to hear that one party to this dispute, the Arabs, with whom they maintained friendly relations, were simply athirst for the blood of the other side and desired nothing but to liquidate them. As for the Israeli diplomats, it made them uncomfortable to have to tell the foreign diplomats that their routine thinking was worlds away from the realities, and that the solutions they proposed were chimerical.

Exactly. You cannot negotiate under these circumstances, and there is no point in doing so. If that were not obvious a priori, it should now be obvious a posteriori after decades of chimerical negotiations (with all-too-real negative consequences for Israeli citizens) and still more so after the withdrawal from Gaza with its inevitable consequences.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two folk tunes

I've recently been reading a fun but not first-tier mystery novel in which the English folk tune "Bushes and Briars" features. I'd never heard it before, so I looked it up. Apparently it's very famous. I think this simple rendering by Julie Christie in the movie Far From the Madding Crowd makes it easy to pick up the tune.

Now listen to this Advent carol.

Similar, no? (HT to Eldest Daughter for noting the similarity.) In fact, strikingly so. The tune for "The King Shall Come" has various names (this site seems to be calling it "Consolation") and is an American folk tune. It appeared in the Kentucky Harmony published in 1816.

When it comes to simple modal tunes, it's very hard to be sure when there is a causal line and when one simply has a case of independent discovery. But I wouldn't be all that surprised if it turned out that someone (or several someones) carried the tune "Bushes and Briars" to America where it morphed into the tune later picked up and used with the words "The King Shall Come."

Both very lovely.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rare Lipizzaner footage

Unless you find horses boring (and who could possibly find horses boring?), watch this video for refreshment of the spirit. Because things should be what they are.

May the memory of Alois Podhajsky remain ever green.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Breath of Life Quartet II--Found again!

Last year we went through a found-again-lost-again cycle for free, downloadable versions of the album Spirituals by the 1970's Breath of Life Quartet. It's back to "found again," this time on Grooveshark. But if you find this post by googling and are interested, I advise you to grab the tracks quickly lest they disappear again. Great black quartet singing. If you want to read a few more of my thoughts about the group, here's the post from last year.

And here they are, thanks to Grooveshark: The Breath of Life Quartet.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Connect the prose and the passion

(With apologies to E.M. Forster.)

There is only one religion that connects the prose and the passion, and that is Christianity. Christianity offers mankind all the scope the imagination and the heart could desire--God become man as a baby with a virgin mother, sin taken away mysteriously by means of the God-man's shameful death, His vindication by a glorious resurrection, the possibility of new life for each of us and the remission of sin, the final promise that all shall be made new.

For this very reason, some have feared that they believe Christianity only because they want it to be true, only because it would be so wonderful if it were true. For this very reason, too many Christians have played along, fearful that the prose might cancel the poetry, separating the "Christ of history" from the "Christ of faith" and assuring the faithful that they can have the latter on which to rest their hearts and feed their imaginations even if the former is...a bit lacking.

This is to separate the prose and the passion with a vengeance.

But this is not Christianity. For Christianity affirms, "He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell, and the third day He rose again from the dead." There is no separation between the great truths of the Gospel and the prosaic truths of history, between the massive miracle of Jesus risen and the all-too-human, bureaucratic hand-washing of a harassed Roman official two thousand years ago.