by Barry King, 28 November 2015

After the recent terror attacks in France, the instinctive response of people of faith all over the world was to pray for Paris, and to encourage others to do so. For others, who consider religious faith problematic, the response was different: “Don’t pray for Paris”. The subtext to those opinions was clearly: religion is part of the problem, so it can’t be part of the solution.

The first of those responses (prayer) has deep historical roots. Thoughtful people will wonder about the second: is it a new idea, or has it been tried before? If it has been tried before, what were the results of the earlier trials? Hearing news of the Paris attacks, many of us remembered John Lennon, who wrote 40 years ago: “Imagine…no hell below us, above us only sky.” John identified the objective of that dream as “..all the people living life in peace.” Clearly, if John were still among us, he would have been among those saying, “Don’t Pray for Paris”.

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by Barry King

I have Mennonite relatives who travel all over North America without paying for hotel rooms, by staying in the homes of a network of relatives of relatives or friends of friends. In so doing, they fail to support the hotel industry and perhaps contribute to slow job growth in that sector. I have Amish relatives who, when they suffer fire damage to a barn, will accept the volunteer help of neighbors for rebuilding, instead of hiring unionized construction workers for that job. In so doing, they take jobs away from those unionized workers. Further: the working conditions at the Amish Barn raising might possibly be OSHA-non-compliant. The Amish also plow their fields with mule teams instead of tractors, and drive horse-drawn carriages on the roads, instead of cars.

It wonders me (that’s a Pennsylvania Dutch phrase) how I should understand Anabaptist attitudes toward innovation. Anabaptists until very recently have been counter-cultural in a variety of ways, which is kind of innovative, but on the other hand, plowing with a mule team in the 21st century seems old-fashioned. Now comes another data point: modern internet-based ride sharing via Uber looks a lot like “Mennonite-Your-Way” travel arrangements and like the Amish approach to barn-raising, and the Uber economic model is considered innovative rather than reactionary, whereas, the growing backlash against it looks pretty darn reactionary. Sixty years after Bill Buckley coined the phrase, who is it now who is standing athwart history and yelling “Stop!”? (Hint: read Hillary’s recent speech in which she scolded Uber, without mentioning it by name. If the guy in Seinfeld who withheld soup was a “Soup Nazi”, does that mean Hillary is now an “Uber Nazi”? Just wondering...) Bill Clinton wanted to build a bridge to the 21st century, which at the time was a forward-looking idea. Now here we are, and Hillary apparently wants to build the same bridge, but she plans on using it to go the other way.

So why exactly is Hillary staking out a position as an Uber Nazi? Well, she counts on union support, and the unions hate Uber, and she likes tax revenues and regulation, while Uber drivers and customers tend to dislike those things. How much do unions and government regulators hate the Uber-style economy? In France, Hillary’s fellow travelers (mobs of taxi drivers) “went full Luddite”, destroying Uber cars, and the French government joined them by arresting Uber managers.

Bottom line: the fundamental difference between the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Uber drivers on the one hand, v. the Uber Nazis on the other is this: the former are content to do their economics via free contracts voluntarily entered, while leaving the rest of the world also free to do whatever they want, whereas, the Uber Nazis want to impose their preferred models on other people by means of government coercion or violence.


by Reid Fitzsimons

A privileged child is a child who has at least one parent willing to suspend prior self-indulgences. This can run the gamut from drinking, clubbing, hanging out with friends, partying, or whatever past enjoyments prove to be incompatible with nurturing parenthood, and to do so without resentment. A child of privilege has at least one parent committed to reading to him or her everyday, letting the child know they are loved, and willing to say “no” more often than “yes.” If this doesn’t transcend ethnic or racial differences then so much the worse for society as well as the children involved, especially because it doesn’t require unobtainable resources to say to say “no” and “I love you.”

...continue reading  President Obama at his best, drawing on 2000 years of Christian tradition, also recently demonstrated by Rwandan Christians after their 1994 genocide and by Lancaster County Amish folks after their 2006 Nickel Mines school massacre (an example of forgiveness also explicitly followed by the survivors at Emmanuel AME church). The President here has kept a tight rein on his inclination to exploit crises for political advantage (limiting it to between about 25:00 and 30:00 in this 38 minute speech). That's progress, but he is still missing that part of the Christian tradition, which some Rwandan survivors have also missed, but which the Amish understand, and which Jesus himself clearly understood and articulated: that there is a possibility for Christians to do forgiveness and reconciliation, and experience Amazing Grace, without at the same time yielding to the temptation to lay their hands on political power which amounts to violence and coercion in another form.

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by Barry King

This is a waypoint on the path of the devolution of the USA towards becoming a police state. I heard some of this low-information hysteria first-hand on the car radio while driving through Indiana recently, in a snowstorm. Putting "religious freedom" inside scare quotes like that, in order to condemn it and suppress it, moves the USA away from the principles of the American revolution and toward those of the French. Diderot said "Let us strangle the last king with the guts of the last priest." He would have gladly joined the current campaign from the American left against Indiana's perfectly reasonable Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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religious sign

by Reid Fitzsimons

Years ago, as a teenager and young adult, I was a secular atheist. I was from the semi-obnoxious school of atheism as compared to the aggressively obnoxious one, the latter being quite common today. Back in the mid-1970’s it was great fun to get plastered and/or smoke a little weed and stay up into the night with friends watching and mocking the 700 Club or PTL Club or whatever was on. I’m not being facetious- it was fun. Though I haven’t done any doobie for over 35 years and rarely drink, I still enjoy watching and mocking the Christian charlatans on TV, and there are plenty of them.

Somewhere into that coveted 30 to 45 year-old range of robust adulthood and then into middle age I began to see the light, as it was, and converted to agnosticism. Actually there was neither a blinding light nor was I knocked off a donkey, but rather life experience happened and perhaps a little wisdom seeped in. The bedrock arguments of atheism, the truism that many Christians are hypocrites, that many wars have been fought and many have been killed in the name of Christianity, if God exists why is there so much suffering, etc certainly have appeal, but mostly to a thoughtful adolescent pondering the mysteries of life. Eventually, however, if one isn’t too beholden to their teenage worldview and they mature, hypocrisy is found to be pretty universal, there is lots of killing done in the name of other beliefs along with the more base things in life (i.e. money, power, sex), bad things happen because there are bad people, and maybe, sadly, suffering just is an accompaniment to worldly existence. ...continue reading


rodeo us flg

by Reid Fitzsimons

Recently Rudy Giuliani suggested Barak Obama doesn’t love America, and predictable outrage and fireworks ensued. So, was he right or does Barak Obama love America? We can answer that question with a parable of sorts. A sensitive young woman gives herself sexually to an older man. Once he has been satisfied she anxiously asks if he loves her. He hesitates for only a moment then replies, “Of course I love you, now what’s your name again?” To this guy love is part of his thoughts as much as contemplation over whether Pluto is a planet or a lesser body, but he does love what he can take from her. The concept of love of country is more than foreign to progressives like Obama, it is anathema.

Love of country evokes images and feelings that appeal to rednecks and malleable yokels- freedoms and remembrances of those who died defending them, jets flying overhead in formation before a sporting event, patriotic songs. Love of country involves a chill going up one’s spine when the flag passes by and a choked up sensation when hearing the words of the founders when played against the backdrop of certain music. Ronald Reagan, with a lowly bachelors degree from a small regional college, loved America.

Progressives, especially one as sophisticated and nuanced as our president, apportion love differently. While nobody can claim they don’t love their children and perhaps even their spouses as much as anyone, their love is otherwise reserved for higher level entities- elegant dining, fine wine, celebrities, expensive clothing, exotic vacations, power and, of course, themselves. ...continue reading

noble rouss


by Barry King

While setting the stage for the French version of liberty, equality, and fraternity, Rousseau said that savages were noble, and that humans generally were naturally and inherently good (religious opinions to the contrary notwithstanding). When asked why he would believe such a thing, in the absence of any evidence for it, he answered that the idea just popped into his head one day, which is pretty much the only available answer to that question. The idea popped into Rousseau's head, and began it's process of decimating western civilization, without his ever having lived in Africa, and long before Europe itself descended into a darkness darker than any ever seen in Africa, in the middle of the 20th century. Philosophically, this notion is pretty much sine qua non for Rousseau's process of becoming "enlightened" and "humanist", and for leading so many others to follow him in that direction.

It's hard to articulate exactly what the problems are, with Rousseau's humanism. But among them is this one: it leaves unanswered the question, when life proves to be full of problems, at whom are we going to point our fingers of blame? After all, everybody else is naturally and inherently good, just like we are. So where in the world is all of this "evil" coming from? Since Rousseau, the best available answer from his point of view has generally been, "Don't ask, it's an embarrassing question". ...continue reading


by Barry King

President Obama called recent years of record federal spending, including billions of Keynesian "stimulus" using borrowed money, "mindless austerity" - as though if he had his way such spending would be even more prodigal. That's hard to imagine, but he can apparently imagine it. Americans are consuming all of their income, and then consuming more and spending more long after they should stop, They are able to continue that for now only by borrowing from China, leaving it to their grandchildren to repay those loans to China with interest. That can't continue much longer, and the only reason it can happen at all is because 21st-century Chinese, unlike 21st-century Americans, produce more than they consume and save the difference, so that their net savings are available to be loaned to Americans - and invested in Africa.

If the President thinks current US federal spending can be described as "mindless austerity", that means he wants to spend even more, in support of American consumption of goods and services. And of course there may well be enough American voters who like that idea, to keep him and politicians like him in power for a while longer. In that milieu, China's surpassing the US as the world's largest and most powerful economy is not only inevitable: it will happen very quickly now, more quickly than almost anyone expects. Here in Africa, that process is more clearly visible - I have been meaning to write up a report of what I saw during a recent visit to Beira, Mozambique - but I suppose there in the USA it might remain out of sight and out of mind for a little while longer. ...continue reading

by Barry King

On June 4, 2009, only a few months into his presidency, US President Obama gave a major speech about US relations with the Muslim world, at Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters reported that the President’s objective in the speech was to “repair ties that were severely damaged under his predecessor George W. Bush.” One sign of that damage was that at the end of Bush’s term, only 27% of Egyptians reported having a favorable view of the USA. Today in 2015, after the first six years of President Obama’s tenure, that approval rating in Egypt has dropped an additional 17 points, to the current abysmal 10% (according to Pew Research). That’s the real-world result, so far, of Obama’s pressing of his metaphorical “reset button”.

On January 1, 2015, only a few months into his presidency, Egyptian President Al-Sisi gave another speech in the same venue, at Al Azhar. ...continue reading